Braves manager Bobby Cox had a quick answer when asked how Tommy Hanson returned to his winning form.
“Strike one,” Cox said.
Hanson made an adjustment in his delivery and, relying on first-pitch strikes, did not give up an earned run in his recovery from back-to-back ugly losses, leading Atlanta to a 4-1 win over the Florida Marlins on Saturday.
Hanson (8-5) allowed five hits and an unearned run with eight strikeouts and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The second-year right-hander’s return to form came after he yielded a combined 15 runs in two straight losses while failing to make it out of the fourth inning in both starts.
By Cox’s count, Hanson threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 29 batters. He threw 106 pitches, including 71 for strikes.
“That’s huge for him. I think that’s the key to pitching to begin with,” Cox said of Hanson’s success when pitching ahead in the count.
“He had his overpowering stuff today,” Cox said.
Hanson made an adjustment in his delivery after studying video with pitching coach Roger McDowell, who noticed the right-hander wasn’t starting with his motion high enough. As a result of starting his delivery from a lower point, Hanson’s pitches were drifting too high in his last two starts.
Hanson said part of his problem was mental.
“I think I just got away from trusting my stuff a little bit, trying to go out there and make a perfect pitch,” he said. “I just tried to stay aggressive.
“I think that’s the biggest thing I could take away from those two bad outings: Just trust my stuff and stay aggressive.”
Hanson, who has never lost more than two consecutive decisions, struck out four straight batters in the sixth and seventh. He is 3-0 in four career starts against Florida.
“He wasn’t striking out anybody early, but he made adjustments,” said Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez of Hanson. “We didn’t make adjustments.”
Billy Wagner, who had a blown save in the Braves’ 4-3 win over Florida on Friday night, pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
With a rare 4:10 p.m. start, a shadow between the pitcher’s mound and home plate was a factor for both teams.
“Everybody was struggling,” Rodriguez said.
All of the Braves’ runs came in a four-run fourth, when Gregor Blanco hit a two-run single off Anibal Sanchez (7-5).
The NL East-leading Braves (48-33) moved a season-best 15 games over .500 at the midpoint of their season. They are 6-2 on their nine-game homestand.
The Marlins have lost three straight.
Hanson gave up two hits and a walk as the Marlins loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Hanson pitched out of the jam by striking out Cody Ross and Ronny Paulino.
Hanson left the game after giving up a single to Chris Coghlan and a walk to Gaby Sanchez with two outs in the seventh. Peter Moylan struck out Hanley Ramirez on three pitches to end the inning.
“We had our opportunities,” Ross said. “We just couldn’t get anything going. Every time we had runners on, we hit into a double play, struck out or something.
“We need to pick it up. Losing against these guys is not good. They’re in first place, running away with it.”
The Braves took a 4-1 lead in the fourth on three straight run-scoring hits off Anibal Sanchez by Omar Infante, Yunel Escobar and Blanco. Escobar’s double to right-center drove in Brian McCann, who reached on an infield hit. Blanco’s single to center drove in Infante and Escobar.
Infante, who had the game-winning hit in the Braves’ 4-3 win in 11 innings Friday night, had two hits.
Anibal Sanchez gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings. He gave up more than three runs in a game for only the third time in his last 14 starts, but each of the three are in his last six outings.
“He kept us in the game, but we have to score some runs,” Rodriguez said.
Florida scored an unearned run in the second. Hanson hit Ross with a pitch. Ross stole second and advanced to third on McCann’s throwing error. Second baseman Martin Prado dropped Ronny Paulino’s popup for an error, allowing Ross to score.
NOTES: Atlanta 1B Eric Hinske moved in from LF, where he has made 31 starts, to give Troy Glaus, who has a sore left knee, a day off. … Florida called up INF Donnie Murphy from Triple-A New Orleans before the game. INF Brian Barden, who was hitting .179 in 28 at-bats, was designated for assignment. … Rodriguez said Paulino, who made his 24th straight start at catcher, will be given a rest Sunday when Brett Hayes starts.