Three Cuts: Gattis’ extra-inning bomb pushes Braves into Wild Card tie

Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) took the first pitch he saw in the 10th inning and blasted a game-winning home run at Marlins Ballpark. The win pushed Atlanta into a Wild Card tie with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Robert Mayer

The Atlanta Braves enjoyed a three-run third inning and coasted until the eighth inning on Friday against the Miami Marlins.

The eighth inning, however, proved treacherous as back-to-back walks to start the inning led to a tie ballgame and extra innings.

Evan Gattis provided heroics in the top of the 10th with a solo blast that proved to be the game winner. Craig Kimbrel shut the door to register his 43rd save of the season.

Here are three observations from Friday’s win that pushed the Braves even with the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League’s final Wild Card spot:

It didn’t come as a great shock when Wood stepped to the plate in the top of the eighth inning with no one on base, two outs and a 3-1 lead. It made all the sense in the world to send him back out to the mound.

Part of the reason was the fact that he’d breezed through his last 10 batters. He pitched three-up and three-down baseball in each of his last three innings, and notched three strikeouts and allowed no base runners to the last 10 Marlins he’d faced.

The rest of the story is that fact that Wood has pitched extremely well against Miami all season.

Friday’s start was Wood’s fourth against the Marlins in 2014. The bad news is that he’s 1-2 in those four starts. The good news is that he’s pitched much better than his record shows.

Wood made it through seven innings on Friday while allowing six hits and two runs. It was his third start where he’d allowed two runs or fewer this season.

On April 22, Wood faced off against Jose Fernandez and lost a combined 28-strikeout pitcher’s duel. He allowed four hits and one run while striking out 11. On Aug. 31, Wood didn’t allow a run in eight innings, and gave up just five hits in his lone win versus Miami.

A 10-hit, seven-run April 29 start sullied Wood’s season line versus the Marlins, however.

Combine those four starts and Wood has pitched 28 innings against Miami and allowed 25 hits, 10 runs and struck out 30 while walking just three. Most pitchers with that kind of stat line are better than 1-2 against a foe.

With his 10th-inning bomb that didn’t exactly make it out of the ballpark, but pelted the wall above a yellow line in center field making it a home run, Gattis set a career high with 22 home runs in a season.

That blast not only won the game for the Braves eventually, it pushed Gattis into a first-place tie for home runs by a visitor in Marlins Park.

Yes, Gattis owns the Marlins on the road.

With six home runs as a visitor to Marlins Park, Gattis is tied with Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals for homers from road players. Gattis has three bombs this season and hit three in 2013. Zimmerman hasn’t hit one in Miami this season, but had four in 2013 and two in the opening season of the park (2012).

Not only has Gattis hit three home runs on the road against Miami, he’s blasted five of his 22 home runs this season against the Marlins, the most of any foe. In fact, of Gattis 43 career home runs, his six at Marlins Park is second to the 20 he’s sent over the fence at Turner Field.

Gattis also seems to have a flair for hitting home runs on the first pitch of an at-bat. His 10th-inning blast on Friday marked Gattis’ eighth home run of his career on with a 0-0 count, the most of any pitch count.

Walden is in the midst of one of his best seasons in the big leagues, if not his best season.

Even though he blew a save on Friday by allowing a hit, a walk and a run to cross the plate in less than an inning, his ERA sits at 2.44 and he’s allowed fewer hits (30) than innings pitched (44 1/3) and struck out 1.22 batters per inning.

As a relief pitcher that doesn’t handle ninth-inning duties, it’s typically tough to lead a team in any statistical category. But Walden does, and he’d likely rather not.

With a wild pitch on Friday, Walden is tied for first on the Braves’ staff with nine wild pitches this season. Aaron Harang also has nine, but he’s pitched 176 2/3 innings in 2014, 132 1/3 more than Walden.

The threat of a wild pitch even forced Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to pull Walden in the bottom of the eighth inning, in a tie game, when Casey McGehee reached third on a Marcell Ozuna fly ball. Gonzalez didn’t want another Walden wild pitch to put the Marlins ahead by a run.

Walden is typically an eight-inning pitcher with 31 1/3 of his innings coming in the next to last frame of a game. But if his propensity for missing the catcher continues, he may see limits on the situations he’s allowed to pitch moving forward.