The Braves provided a little Fourth of July theater with a three-run outburst in the first inning Thursday against the Marlins, but they didn’t offer much other than some suspense over the next eight innings.
The Braves failed to score again and the 35,465 fans who braved rainy conditions at Turner Field were in for a shock after watching Craig Kimbrel walk two batters and give up the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss.
Kimbrel fell behind each of the first three batters he faced – and walked two of them – but looked like he might work his way out of a precarious spot like he’s done plenty recently. But with two outs, pinch hitter Donovan Solano worked an RBI single to right field on an 0-2 slider from Kimbrel to drive in Ed Lucas.
“That’s one of those pitches that you throw it, you want to throw it in the dirt,” Kimbrel said. “You don’t want to throw it where you can put the bat on the ball and he was able to do it.”
That broke up a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless outings since the Braves’ dominant closer gave up back-to-back home runs in a walk-off loss in Cincinnati on May 7.
“We all look at him - even us as kind of a robot, and we assume that it’s almost impossible for him to give up a run,” said Dan Uggla, who nearly got the run back but got robbed by Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth. “But he’s still human. He still made a good pitch right there, but Donovan just stayed through it and stayed with it and found a hole. It’s going to happen sometimes.”
The Braves offense didn’t offer much resistance, managing only three singles over eight innings after the three-run first. The game had been knotted in a 3-3 tie since the fourth inning. Freddie Freeman drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, only the fourth Braves baserunner since the first, but Uggla’s gapper was caught and B.J. Upton struck out to end the game.
The Marlins handed the Braves only their second home series loss of the season. The Marlins have won 16 of their past 23 games after winning only 16 of their first 60 games on the season.
After starting this homestand 4-0, the Braves lost the final two after failing to get a quality start from either of their hot young guns Mike Minor on Wednesday or Julio Teheran on Thursday.
Teheran came out sharp – striking out the first four batters he faced – but couldn’t maintain the pace and left after only five innings, having accumulated 104 pitches, six hits, three runs and only three more strikeouts.
He threw 36 more pitches than Henderson Alvarez who also came out after five innings in his first start of the season coming off shoulder problems.
“The whole game I was battling out there and it was one of those games that you don’t have your best (stuff),” Teheran said. “…By the end, I wasn’t commanding my breaking ball, so they were sitting on my fastball and my two-seamer.”
Like Teheran’s early strikeouts, the Braves offense against Alvarez was fleeting. The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Alvarez retired 11 batters in a row before Chris Johnson singled again in the fifth.
Alvarez, who came to Miami in the blockbuster trade with Toronto, was making his first start at a Marlin after three months on the DL. Once he settled in, he was hard to hit.
Teheran got a little easier. After watching the first four hitters whiff, Marcell Ozuna made the most of the first solid contact, squaring up on a 2-2 curveball for a tape measure shot to left field.
His home run started the Marlins on a three-run comeback, with a run each in the second, third and fourth innings. The Marlins tied the game 3-3 on another RBI hit from Ozuna in the fourth.
The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead after Freeman worked an opposite-field single to drive in two runs. Brian McCann followed with an RBI double, to make him 12-for-28 (.429) over his past eight games.
Freeman extended his hitting streak to eight games and continued his good work with runners in scoring position. He came into Thursday’s game ranked fourth in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position and raised it to .424 (28-for-66) with his first-inning single.