W: Clay Hensley
L: Anthony Varvaro
SV: Leo Nunez
I refrained from tweeting this during the game for fear of jinxing the Braves, but at no point from the eighth inning on did I have the slightest inkling that Florida might win this game. And I can't really tell you why; after all, the Marlins got on the board early, plating a run in both the first and third, and a pair in the sixth. They then threatened in both the seventh and the eighth, but the Braves pitchers kept finding a way out. The offense kept up their tepid pace of, if I recall correctly, 3.4 runs per game this month, scoring four by way of a run in each of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but it always seemed like there was room for more.
Indeed, Chip Caray's insane screeds about how OBP is a bad stat because it doesn't account for poor performance with runners in scoring position may have caught hold with the fans watching tonight's game. The Braves were 3-14 with RISP, and stranded 15 runners the honest way, leaving the bases loaded on one occasion and marooning a pair on four occasions.
The hard thing about this game is that it's hard to assign too much blame to any particular player. Jason Heyward walked three times, Michael Bourn had three hits, both Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla contributed a pair of knocks themselves, and Alex Freaking Gonzalez was the star offensive player of the game, collecting three hits and two RBIs. Brandon Beachy turned in an effective start; he lasted only five and a third innings, but struck out 10 and walked just one. He did surrender nine hits and all four of the Marlins' regulation runs while throwing 73 pitchers through three innings, but managed to compose himself and throw up Ks with aplomb. The bullpen was effective from a macro view, allowing just one run in six and two thirds innings, though Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty had to overcome some struggles to preserve their clean sheets. Craig Kimbrel may've moved beyond some of the doubt that's started to cloud his performance recently, striking out a pair and sitting above 95 mph with the heater, and Peter Moylan was as effective as he's ever been since his recent return from the DL.
Really what this game came down to was a trio of great defensive plays from the Marlins middle men: Omar Infante (yes, I know) made a nifty stop of a topspin-heavy grounder off Dan Uggla's bat, and Donnie Murphy snared a Prado liner just an inning after prolonging the game by throwing out Michael Bourn on a slow grounder to short. Had any of those balls gotten through -- you know, like the way Mike Stanton's grounder found its way under Jack Wilson's diving stab -- the Braves' magic number would be 10 and we wouldn't have to suffer through any talk of momentum.
As it is, the thing I'm most afraid of is that Fredi is going to see this loss as a reason to think that he has to shake up the lineup even more. I know the desire is there for him to want to affect change in what he perceives as an underachieving group, but fluctuations like this happen over the course of a baseball season; what's important is that he -- and we fans -- understand that it's merely unfortunate timing for the Braves to fall into a swoon like this. If this run of play had happened in June, there'd be no hand-wringing; I just ask that Fredi and the fans all step back and remember that the Braves are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Wild Card, and that an extra innings loss to a depleted Marlins squad, while discouraging, is not a death sentence.
And so! Let us look ahead to tomorrow with bright eyes and light hearts, as Mike Minor and Brad Hand square off in an epic showdown of southpaws with last names that are almost too noun for their own good. 7:10 EDT, y'all.