MIAMI (AP) — Cody Ross pulled ground balls to short in each of his first three trips to the plate. So in the eighth inning, he took a new approach.
It worked perfectly for the Florida Marlins.
Ross extended his arms and delivered an opposite-field two-run double in the eighth inning, Anibal Sanchez allowed two runs and five hits in winning his third straight start and the Marlins extended Kenshin Kawakami’s season of woe by beating the Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Tuesday night.
“Cody getting those add-on runs, they were big,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
So, too, was Sanchez (4-2), who quietly has prevailed in three consecutive appearances for the first time since September 2006, a stretch four years ago that included his no-hitter against Arizona.
Cameron Maybin homered in the third inning and Florida tacked on three runs in the eighth, Ross’ hit the big blow.
“Maybe a couple years ago I’m up there trying to hit a home run, instead of just hitting the ball the other way and driving in one run,” Ross said. “That was my approach. I just wanted to get one.”
He got more.
Jorge Cantu scored, Dan Uggla came around easily as well, and the Marlins needed that breathing room after Atlanta rallied on Jason Heyward’s two-run single off Leo Nunez in the ninth.
But the Braves got no closer, and the Marlins leapfrogged them into second in the NL East, three games behind Philadelphia.
“Played a good game,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We just didn’t win.”
Brian McCann hit a two-run double and Martin Prado had three hits for the Braves, who again struggled to give Kawakami (0-7) run support. The 34-year-old Japanese righty is winless in nine starts this season, and hasn’t won since beating the Marlins in Miami last Aug. 31 — 16 appearances ago.
Here’s the run support the Braves have given Kawakami this season: 2, 0, 2, 0, 2, 3, 0, 4, and now, 2. Of the 148 pitchers with at least five starts this season entering Tuesday, Kawakami ranked 137th in run support. (His teammate, Jair Jurrjens, is last, getting a mere 1.5 runs of support on average in his five starts.)
“The results are that I’m 0-7,” Kawakami said, “so I just need to accept that.”
McCann’s two-run double in the fourth staked Kawakami to a short-lived lead. The Braves couldn’t add any more before Kawakami left, having given up seven hits and three runs in six innings.
Sanchez didn’t exactly have an abundance of help, either. Just enough.
He left with runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, chased after pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera singled sharply to right.
An angst-filled moment or two later, the Marlins saved the lead for their starter.
Right-hander Brian Sanches struck out Prado looking. From there, the Marlins tried playing the percentages again, taking Sanches out and bringing left-hander Renyel Pinto to face Heyward. Pinto hit Heyward with his first pitch, loading the bases for Chipper Jones — who lined out to third on a slow 2-2 offering.
The Marlins played error-free for the seventh straight game, a stretch that was tested at a crucial time in the eighth.
With pinch-runner Gregor Blanco on second, Yunel Escobar hit a hard shot to Ramirez’s left. The Marlins’ shortstop bobbled the ball, then controlled it and fired a low throw to first, where Cantu snared it to end the inning and protect what was then a one-run lead.
“Nice defensive night, and our pitching, if you do that, you’ll put yourself in a good position,” Gonzalez said.
NOTES: Statistical oddity for Sanchez, who came in with a career .500 record (29-29) and having thrown exactly 5,500 pitches. … The Braves placed OF Brent Clevlen (sprained big toe) on the 15-day DL, recalling Blanco from Triple-A Gwinnett. … Ramirez lost control of his bat and it sailed into seats along the third-base side in the eighth, hitting a few of the 63,000 or so empty seats in Sun Life Stadium. … Braves OF Nate McLouth was hitless in three at-bats, and is batting 9 for 77 (.117) on the road this season.