While things were looking down as the Braves skidded to their fourth consecutive loss for the first time all season, they were reminded during the three-game set against the visiting Marlins of what got them through the season so far: quality pitching and clutch hitting.
Such was not the case Monday night, as the Atlanta offense went 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position, failing to score with ample chances in the 9th, 10th, 11th and deciding 12th inning, as the Marlins took the opener, 5-4.
Brandon Beachy got the starting nod Monday, and he was down 2-0 early before the offense gave him a little support. Alex Gonzalez, whom the Marlins heard from all series, drove in the first run with a double, before Freddie Freeman’s sac fly knotted the game at 2.
But the Braves showed an inability to produce a lock-down inning, as the Marlins came right back and scored two runs in the top of the 6th to take a 4-2 lead and knock Beachy out of the game.
Jason Heyward produced another run scoring sac fly, making it a 4-3 game before Gonzalez came through again, this time with an RBI single to make it a 4-3 game.
While the Braves loaded the bases in the 9th with one one, the offense could not produce, as Brian McCann, mired in one of the worst slumps of his otherwise clutch career, struck out looking before Martin Prado grounded out to end the threat.
The Marlins scored in the 12th to take the opener, but before Tuesday’s game, manager Fredi Gonzalez held a meeting and let his players know they needed to have fun.
And in Tuesday’s game, while it started out similar to Monday’s ending, the ship began to sail upstream.
Mike Minor and Brad Hand dueled through 5 innings, before Minor allowed the Marlins to score in the 6th, as his day was finished after 5 2/3, but this time, McCann would not let the Braves go quietly into the night.
After watching the offense waste opportunities in the first and second innings, McCann strolled to the plate with two men on and one out in the 6th and unloaded on Hand’s 2-0 fastball, sending it over the wall in center field and giving the Braves a 3-1 lead. It was the Braves first lead since Friday in St. Louis, when closer Craig Kimbrel was unable to close out the Cardinals with a 3-1 lead in the 9th.
In the very next inning, with no out and two on, Dan Uggla belted a three-run shot of his own, making it a 6-1 game before a sacrifice fly from Michael Bourn scored the Braves 7th run, as the Braves went on to win that contest, 7-1.
Thursday, the 150th game of the year, was not looking up for the Braves, with Ricky Nolasco holding the offense to just two hits through 7 innings, staked to a 1-0 lead after Randall Delgado gave up a solo homer in the 2nd.
But while the Braves pitching staff did not allow a Marlins hit after the 3rd inning, it gave the offense time to come alive.
And after the 7th inning stretch, it did just that.
With one out, Uggla drew a walk after making Nolasco work to a full count before McCann did the same, lining a 3-2 offering to right with Uggla going, putting runners on the corners with one out.
Without needing much time to settle in, Martin Prado laid down a bunt, and when the ball hit the dirt, Uggla broke from third, scoring without a play as Prado reached first with an infield single, tying the game at 1.
After Heyward flied to center, Gonzalez came up with two outs and two men on, looking to continue his hot hitting over the series, as Braves Country crossed their fingers.
Down in the count 0-2, Gonzalez drilled a hanging curveball into the seats in left, giving the Braves a 4-1 lead, before Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel locked down the 8th and 9th innings, as Kimbrel earned his MLB-leading 44th save of the season.
Now, the Braves have a day off before welcoming the Mets to Turner Field for the last weekend homestand of the 2011 season.