Hero of the Game: Carlos Lee (0.102 WPA) and Wade Leblanc (0.154 WPA when including his hitting)
Goat of the Game: Jose Reyes (-0.062 WPA)
Play of the Game: Freddie Freeman lined out to right field with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning (+0.130 WPA)
The lack of big plays as evidenced by the WPA chart and low-impact "Play of the Game" underscores how quiet this 4-2 victory for the Miami Marlins was. Still, when your team is not doing well, any victory, lazy or otherwise, is a big deal. Tonight's victory was on the back of a three-run first inning and a solid performance by starter Wade Leblanc in a short outing. The Marlins bullpen did just enough to maintain the lead and the Fish came out with a win and gave themselves a chance to split the four-game series.Three-Run First Inning
The Marlins' first inning was a revelation considering how poorly the club has being doing offensively as of late. In some ways, the club designed the lineup to produce in this fashion, though. Emilio Bonifacio got on board with a bunt single and promptly stole second base in the Marlins' continued effort to steal all the bases (!). Donnie Murphy singled into left field and put runners in an unusual situation for the Marlins: first and third with no one out. The Marlins' chances of winning had jumped to 63.6 percent with just those two hits.
But ironically it was the club's hottest bat in the lineup that did the most puzzling thing, as Jose Reyes squared to bunt and laid one down the first base line that was easily fielded. He received a sacrifice bunt for his troubles, but many were left confused as to the purpose of his maneuver. The likelihood of a bunt scoring a runner would only be viable on an excellent bunt, and it was very likely that such a bunt down the first base line would have been easier to get out on at first even if it did score the run. With Reyes the best projected hitter in the lineup, the move to try and bunt single a runner home, even one with Bonifacio's speed, seemed like a poor decision.
Carlos Lee and company bailed out Reyes's call just when it seemed the Fish would do their disappearing act with runners on. Lee hit a bloop single that drove home Bonifacio and moved Murphy to third. Greg Dobbs followed with an up-the-middle single that scored Murphy, and that was quickly trailed by Bryan Petersen's line drive single to right field that also scored Lee. The three runs tallied +0.222 WPA and, by the end of the big inning, the Fish had a whopping 77.1 percent chance of winning.
Game Wrapped Up
In reality, the first inning really more or less sealed the Marlins' game up. The Braves reached a 32.1 percent chance of winning the game when Paul Janish's blooper evaded Bryan Petersen's diving attempt and went for a double that left runners on second and third with two outs. After that time and the double by Wade Leblanc that helped drive in a run, the Braves could only get up to a 24 percent chance of winning the game. Mike Dunn walked the bases loaded after relieving Heath Bell with one out to go in the seventh inning, but he got lefty Freddie Freeman to line out to end the threat and keep the game at 4-2.
A quick note on attendance. Marlins radio announcer Dave Van Horne was critical of the Atlanta Braves for drawing such a paltry crowd, and I will admit that it even surprised me. The Braves drew just 18,133 to attend this game despite the team's full competitive status in the Wild Card picture. When watching the game, it was evident that swaths of Turner Field were left blank and wide open, a sight often reserved for Sun Life Stadium.
The Marlins have not drawn as well as most teams in their 2012 debut of Marlins Park, but it has never gotten down to the 18,000 mark, especially on a weekday evening. Braves fans are notorious for no-showing at the stadium, but tonight's outing seemed especially low. To be fair, however, rain had been threatening for most of the afternoon and especially around 5 pm in the Atlanta area, so maybe ticket holders simply opted out of sitting through a potential delay.