Three Cuts: Braves trip Marlins on Gattis’ walk-off homer
It’s one of the rarest in-game redemption stories a player can experience, exacting revenge after a catcher’s interference call.
But there stood Gattis on Monday, still seething from a defensive miscue (the catcher’s interference) that helped the Marlins deadlock the game in the ninth — but focused enough to clinch the Braves’ 4-2 home victory over Miami with a line-drive homer in the 10th.
Gattis’s walk-off blast, the first of his MLB career, didn’t come soon enough to prevent the Braves from partaking in extra-inning affairs on back-to-back days (in different cities — New York and Atlanta).
But it was a fitting conclusion to a "crazy" game that included 22 combined strikeouts and 22 runners left on base.
"(Just trying) to be as loose as I can, I’m trying to get a hit," recalled Gattis of the big moment, while also hearkening back to his last walk-off homer — which occurred in High-A ball, when the precocious slugger was "on a hot streak."
With the count at 1-0 and Dan Uggla on first base and no outs, Gattis connected on Marlins reliever Arquimedes Caminero’s fastball, grooving the high-velocity, low-liner over the left-field wall.
It was a mistake on Caminero’s part to give Gattis such a meaty offering — an error in judgment that was first committed with Uggla on the previous at-bat. Uggla reached bases on a single to center.
"(Those guys) don’t usually miss fastballs," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Make mistakes with the ball over the plate, and that’s what they do."
Regarding the catcher’s interference call, an excitable Gattis was equal parts humorous and philosophically chagrined about how things went down on Adeiny Hechavarria’s at-bat in the ninth.
"Yeah, I was mad," said Gattis, who finished with one run, two hits and two RBI. "I don’t know, I just don’t like the rule. I understand, but I really think if the batter’s really that late (on his swing) … if they’re going to put in play, it should be a foul tip. But whatever, I made the adjustment."
Gattis’s late-inning heroics overshadowed two occurrences — the stealth outing of Braves starter Julio Teheran (one earned run on five hits and a walk and eight strikeouts over seven innings) and closer Craig Kimbrel’s emergence after yielding the game-tying hit in the ninth (a double from pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich).
With Miami having the go-ahead runs on second and third base (after Dietrich’s hit), Kimbrel quickly rummaged through a gritty portion of the Marlins lineup — fanning Jeff Baker, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna on consecutive at-bats.
"Those last two or three hitters (in the ninth) was the old Craig Kimbrel. He’s fine," beamed Gonzalez about his elite-level closer.
With the victory, the Braves improved to 13-6 overall (tops in the National League East), while also upping their divisional mark to 11-5.
On the flip side, the Marlins (9-11) are still winless on the road (0-7).
Tuesday, Atlanta will face Miami marvel Jose Fernandez (just 21 years old), who has a 2.66 ERA and 33/6 K-BB rate for the season.
Things could have gone sideways for the Braves during the eighth inning, thanks to our new friend, Instant Replay.
Here’s the scene: With the Marlins trailing by one and runners on first and second, Giancarlo Stanton laced a firm grounder to shortstop Andrelton Simmons (who hit a solo homer in the fifth), who scooped up the ball and tossed it toward Uggla at second base. While Uggla was making the transition from catch-to-throw — with the intent of getting Stanton at first base — he summarily dropped the ball.
In the old days, circa 2013, the runner approaching second base (Ozuna) would have been out — which was the umpire’s original call. But upon instant replay … it was determined Uggla had never completed the catch-to-throw transfer, and Ozuna was ruled "safe" at second.
So, instead of runners on the corners with two outs, the Marlins had bases loaded and one out. Fortunately for the Braves, reliever Jordan Walden retired Casey McGehee (strikeout) and Garrett Jones (groundout) without incident, preserving Atlanta’s slim lead for another stanza.
For whatever reason, this controversial judgment — which was a no-brainer "out" call this time last year — has been wreaking havoc with MLB replays for the entire month of April.
And unless systemic changes are made on the fly, it will continue to be a source of contention through the All-Star break, if not longer.
The one positive from this chaos: Fans, players, managers, executives and umpires are all banding together for one common cause this spring — collectively hating on the "transfer rule."
According to Gonzalez, Mike Minor will be observed during a bullpen session on Tuesday — a seemingly low-key outing that could have significant ramifications for Atlanta’s starters, if Minor is deemed ready to make his first MLB start of the season.
Minor (shoulder) has already produced four rehab starts in the minors, posting two wins, a 3.52 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 17/4 K-BB rate. Of equal importance, Minor threw 80 pitches in his last outing (Saturday at Triple-A Gwinnett), meaning he could conceivably handle a pitch-count jump into the 90s for his next turn … wherever/whenever that may be.
Earlier in the week, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported Minor would start against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night at Turner Field.
If that sentiment still exists with the Braves, although Gonzalez says nothing has been determined, it would presumably clear the way for Ervin Santana — who has surrendered just two earned runs in three seasonal starts (21 innings) — to take on Cincinnati Friday night.
Within that scope, David Hale (just six earned runs allowed in five career MLB starts) could get bumped from his turn … on the assumption Atlanta doesn’t expand the rotation to six arms upon Minor’s return.
For what it’s worth, the Braves’ current quintet of starters (Teheran, Santana, Hale, Aaron Harang, Alex Wood) through Monday with a 1.52 ERA, which leads the majors.
In Wood’s case, being relegated to long-relief or high-leverage situations in the Braves bullpen would certainly help him stay under the much-speculated cap of 160-175 innings, as a means of stretching out his workload over the next six months.
Such a move would also make the 23-year-old Wood — with only 218 2/3 professional innings under his belt — available for postseason starts (if applicable).
But that’s a far-off concern for a Braves club that’s knee-deep in viable starters, now that Minor and free-agent signee Gavin Floyd (elbow) are primed to join an already stacked rotation.