Three Cuts: Braves rally, but fall to Marlins

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves fell behind by four runs early to the Miami Marlins. Good pitching, and a rally in the eighth inning made things interesting, but Atlanta did go down in the end, 6-5. Here are three things we learned from Tuesday’s loss to Miami, the second consecutive defeat at the hands of the Marlins:

Entering Tuesday contest, Mike Minor had taken the mound for 14 starts this season. Split those games into two even piles, and you get a perfect dichotomy, the only similarity is seven starts on each side. The two sets of stats couldn’t be more different.

In Minor’s first seven starts, he pitched six games where he allowed three runs or fewer. His ERA was 3.07, and even though he had a 2-4 record, he was providing the Braves with good innings on the mound.

On the flip side of his first seven starts, Minor’s second string of seven wasn’t nearly as good. He only enjoyed three starts where he gave up three runs of fewer, and posted a 6.86 ERA. At 1-1, he didn’t have a losing record, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on that could be referred to as good.

Minor walked to the mound for his 15th start on Tuesday. It didn’t take long for everything to go wrong.

The first three Marlins that Minor faced all singled. Cleanup hitter Casey McGehee hit into a double play that scored Christian Yelich, and after a walk to Marcell Ozuna, Minor got out of the inning by getting Jeff Baker to fly to right field.

The bottom of the Miami batting order went in order in the second inning, giving Minor a sense of false hope.

The first three hitters in the third inning all got on base just as they did in the first, except Christian Yelich walked instead of hitting a single, and Giancarlo Stanton doubled. The other difference is that all three of the Marlins 1-2-3 hitters were plated in the third inning.

Eight batters came to the plate in the Marlins’ half of the third inning, and then the next three batters to face Minor in the fourth inning–pitcher Jacob Turner, Yelich and Donovan Solano–all reached by base hit, chasing Minor from the game.

"It was off a lot tonight," said Minor about the command of his fastball. "I couldn’t throw anything really on the corners, everything was running over the middle of the plate. Some of the balls that they mis-hit were still hits."

"That’s what he does best," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez about Schafer’s ability to steal bases. "We felt that with Cishek on the mound–with five of the last six stolen bases against him (having been successful)–we felt like we had a good chance to steal the base."

Gonzalez liked the idea of no one out in the ninth, with Schafer on second and Simmons at the plate. That was the plan. That’s what Gonzalez discussed with Schafer prior to putting him into the game to run.

Mathis made "a nice throw" to gun down Schafer, and Simmons then struck out to bring up the final batter of the night. Pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit struck out too, to end the game.

The play that logged the first out of the inning wasn’t on Simmons, though. That was a straight steal called by Gonzalez, not a missed sacrifice bunt.

After four innings the Braves were down 6-2. Atlanta’s starter had been chased from the game, and the bullpen was going to have to stop the bleeding.

They did more than bandage the problem.

Next Up: Braves vs. Marlins

"I like the way our bullpen gave us an opportunity (to fight back)," said Gonzalez. "We go out and give up six runs, and we had to cover, and they did it. We kind of just hung around and made a big comeback in the eighth inning, where everybody thought the game was going to be over, and made it a one-run game."

Three Braves relievers combined to pitch six innings of shutout baseball. David Hale came in for Minor and threw three innings. He gave up just two hits. David Carpenter followed for two innings and didn’t allow a hit. Save one base on balls, Carpenter would have kept the basepaths clean of Marlins.

Anthony Varvaro pitched a clean ninth inning, a throwing error by Simmons the only blemish.

Varvaro has been quietly having a solid season. Tuesday’s zero-run ninth lowered his ERA to 2.29. But his efforts of late have been even more impressive.

Since June 14, Varvaro has appeared in 15 games and pitched 15 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 13 batters, walked just three and allowed only two runs to cross the plate. He’s sporting a 1.15 ERA over that time period, and hitters are showing a measly .193 batting average too.