Good news, Fish fans: thanks to another nice showing from the bullpen, some good defense and a few timely hits, match point went to the Marlins.
Ricky Nolasco has had better nights on the mound. Maybe the Braves were just desperate to actually make contact after Josh Johnson toyed with them Wednesday, but Ricky really had to work through five innings and gave up five runs on six hits. Fortunately for Ricky, Brandon Beachy had a similar outing. He allowed five runs of his own through 5 1/3 innings, and recorded 8 of the Marlins lineup's 15 Ks in the game.
The Marlins jumped out in front in the first, putting up three runs. Chris Coghlan kicked off his 2-for-4 night with a single, and Hanley Ramirez drew a one-out walk. Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison followed with back-to-back RBI doubles to put the Fish up 3-0.
In the bottom of the inning, the momentum swung right back to ATL. Ricky gave up base hits to Martin Prado and Nate McLouth, and an RBI single to Chipper Jones. Brian McCann followed with a three-run homer to give the Braves a 4-3 lead.
The Marlins tied up the game in the next inning on an RBI single by Hanley, who was 3-for-3 with 2 walks in the game, and took the lead once again in the third when Gaby Sanchez hit his first home run of the season to make it 5-4 in favor of the Fish.
But the Braves weren't done scoring. In the bottom of the fifth, Dan Uggla went deep against his former team, and tied the game once again at five.
Randy Choate took over for Ricky in the sixth and pitched to just one batter, giving up a single to McCann before Sanches replaced him and issued two free passes to load up the bases for Brooks Conrad. Thankfully, Chris Coghlan had some more Hollywood defense at the ready, and made the diving catch to rob Conrad and leave the bases loaded. Whew.
In the seventh, the Fish grabbed the lead once again off of Eric O'Flaherty. Gaby Sanchez and pinch-hitter Wes Helms both singled to put two on for John Buck, who singled to center to drive in the go-ahead run.
This time the Fish held on to their lead.
After Mike Dunn and Clay Hensley handled the 7th and 8th, Leo Nunez had his usual "colorful" ninth inning (presumably not wanting to disappoint those of us who are conditioned to bite our nails down to bloody nubs when he takes the mound). He gave up a leadoff single to Gonzalez to elicit the obligatory heart palpitations, but thanks to the Marlins' all-defensive squad behind him, Leo got his three outs and logged his fourth save of the season.
The Fish are now 7-5, and have taken both series on the road trip so far.
On to Philadelphia. But only because we don't have a choice.