clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Braves walk past Marlins to victory

Fish Stripes had boots on the ground at SunTrust Park for Saturday’s loss to the Braves

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves
Giancarlo hit his 54th home run of the season
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

For their homestand against the Marlins, in anticipation of receiving evacuees from Florida, the Braves offered Marlins fans free entry for those seeking refuge in Atlanta.

Although I am a full-time law student at Florida State University, I was ready to leave for Atlanta as soon as Friday to take advantage of the opportunity. However, seeing as I had classes to attend on Tuesday, and that I would have had to drive through the northbound hurricane to make it back to Tallahassee in time for class, I decided that I would hunker down and weather the storm. Tallahassee wasn’t slated to get the brunt of the storm anyway.

Overnight, the storm shifted westward, and trajectories predicted that after hitting Tampa, Irma would come charging full-bore at Tallahassee. Classes also got completely cancelled for all of next week. So I jumped in the car, and high-tailed it for Georgia. With a little help from my girlfriend’s family, I found myself at SunTrust Park on Saturday night. Here’s how mine and the Marlins’ night went.

First of all, if you haven’t been to The Battery and SunTrust Park in this first season, I would highly suggest that you begin making plans for next season. Just outside the heart of the city, Atlanta has incredibly borne an entirely new entertainment district, filled with high-end sports bars, craft foods, and innovative shops. The live music and the confluence of food and drink creates an electric atmosphere for fans before they even step foot inside the ballpark. You have to make sure to take in the whole experience — if you see the Fish on the road against Atlanta next year, plan ahead and make time to see The Battery. You won’t be sorry.

I think I should caveat here that I think there is seldom a better atmosphere — not including Fenway, Wrigley, and Dodger — than Marlins Park to watch a ballgame. Give me the roof, air conditioning, Cuban food, clean bathrooms, and Presidente any day of the week; the difference maker is that that the design of Marlins Park is uniquely tailored to reflect Miami’s vibrant culture. There is no parallel to Marlins Park. On the other hand, ballparks built in Heartland Americana are starting to blend in with each other — see also Nationals Park, Great American Ballpark, Target Field, PNC Park, Comerica Park, Citi Field, etc. SunTrust Park is no exception to the rule here.

With that said, just because it is similar to many other ballparks doesn’t mean it isn’t nice — it’s pretty incredible. Somehow, the Braves have managed to pack four entire levels of seats behind home plate, allowing for staggering amounts of Braves fans to pile into the complex. Fans behind the plate peer over one level of outfield seating to get a beautiful view of the concourse and The Battery. Overall, being in this Park makes for a downright pleasant viewing experience.

Although I can’t have three different types of Cuban sandwiches in SunTrust Park, there is a wide variety of food otherwise. The most orthodox of Georgians can quench their naturally endowed love of Chik-Fil-A at the actual chain in the ballpark. From gourmet pizza, to craft garlic fries, to good ole country B-B-Q, fans have many options to choose from at a Braves game. Although I had barbecue my first time here in June, I decided to try out Hugh Acheson’s 1st & 3rd Sausage Shack; a full-service restaurant embedded into the facade of the right field gate. While the standard German bratwurst with sauerkraut and horseradish sauce can likely be found at any ballpark with a little effort, I took a standard deviation from the norm by getting the potato salad on the side. A risky move indeed, but fortune favors the bold. Overall, I’d say it was a good choice.

SunTrust Park
While opposing pitchers run out of the bullpen, SunTrust dims the lights, as fans perform the chop with their cell phone lights.
Hank Aaron serves as the centerpiece to SunTrust Park’s Monument Garden behind home plate
The view from the Coors Light Chop House
A German bratwurst, traditionally soaked in beer, garnished with sauerkraut and horseradish sauce, and served with a helping of potato salad. You can almost smell it through the screen.

Oh right, the game. You want to know about the game.

The Marlins got off to an excellent start in the first inning, when an unsuspecting young lefty pitcher Max Fried toed the rubber against a rested Giancarlo Stanton. You can imagine what the result was.

Statcast clocked number 54 at traveling 456 feet with an exit velocity of 114 mph. According to Statcast, this homer made Stanton the proud father of three of the four longest home runs to christen SunTrust Park. With a WPA of .101, the home run instantly increased the Marlins’ chances of winning by 10.1 percent.

Max Fried seemed to have a hard time getting comfortable in the game. After stranding two runners in the third inning, the Marlins struck for three runs in the top of the fourth. Marcell Ozuna started the inning with a single. JT Realmuto replaced Ozuna at third with a triple, pushing the score to 2-0. After Realmuto, Brian Anderson and AJ Ellis both jumped on first pitches to keep the lineup moving; Anderson reached first with an RBI single on a floater to right field, and AJ Ellis was credited with reaching base on an error for scorching a grounder to first that ate up Freddie Freeman. Miguel Rojas would force Anderson across with a ground ball to make the score 4-0 before Dee Gordon singled and Max Fried was replaced by Lucas Sims.

The Braves rallied back in the bottom half of the inning. Adam Conley took the hill for the Marlins, and after breezing through the first three innings of the game, Conley hit some turbulence in the bottom of the fourth. Kurt Suzuki led off the inning with a single. After a Dansby Swanson K, switch-hitting third baseman Johan Camargo lifted a home run over the left-field fence, making the score 4-2. Camargo’s home run upped the Braves’ chances of winning by 13.5 percent to 27.6 percent. As Conley struggled with flipping the order over, Ozzie Albies hit a double from the two-spot to add one more to the Braves tally.

The Marlins would get their last run in the top of the fifth; after Christian Yelich lead off with a double, JT Realmuto singled him in. At this point, the Braves’ win expectancy plummeted to 22.9 percent.

A crucial moment occurred in the bottom of the fifth. Again, Adam Conley in the fifth found himself in trouble after allowing Kurt Suzuki and Dansby Swanson to reach base. Sure enough, with damage to be done, Johan Camargo came through in the clutch again, shooting a ground ball single to Ozuna. Although Suzuki would score from second, and Swanson would advance to third, AJ Ellis in his infinite Dad wisdom cut the throw off from Ozuna and fired the ball across the diamond to catch Camargo lollygagging into second base for an important second out. They don’t call him Dad for nothing.

After Camargo brought the score to 5-4, Conley was relieved by Dustin McGowan. McGowan immediately ran into trouble in the sixth inning, after letting Jace Peterson and Ender Inciarte on with back-to-back singles. Then, as Ozzie Albies stepped into the box, the lefty Freddie Freeman stepped into the on-deck circle. Regardless of whether Albies grounded into a double play or not, Freeman was still going to come to the dish with an opportunity to score the tying run. While Freddie is mashing in general, lefty pitchers do have a slight advantage over him — he has a .444 wOBA vs. righties, and a .367 wOBA against lefties. Not a huge advantage, but one nonetheless.

Yet even with the lefty coming up, with two runners on base, the righty McGowan kept the ball against Freeman. I glanced to the bullpen to see if Mattingly had anyone ready to make a move. All of the pitchers were doing calisthenics to warm up, but I noticed in particular that the lefty Nicolino was just throwing a baseball against the back of the bullpen wall. I could think of a better use for the lefty than that in this situation, but I’m not the Marlins manager. Anyway, after working the count to 1-2, Freeman laced a ball through the right side to score Jace Peterson, officially tying the ballgame. Freeman’s at-bat would prove to have the fifth highest leverage index in the game, and his execution upped the Brave’s win probability by 21.8 percent to 67.6 percent.

Christian Yelich led the charge in the seventh inning with a lead off double. After that, Marcell Ozuna hit a dying quail into the gap between Matt Kemp and potential Gold Glover Ender Inciarte. Yelich turned to watch the play, and after seeing the not-so-spritely Kemp call Inciarte off of the ball, Yelich put his head down and began sprinting towards home. What happened next, I can only show you.

Yelich was easily doubled off after Kemp landed on the tarmac and regained his feet, killing the Marlins rally in the seventh.

After a clean eight the Marlins were threatening in the 9th inning when Marcell Ozuna came to the plate with two outs and two men on. Arodys Vizcaino struck out Ozuna swinging.

Kyle Barraclough was tabbed for the bottom of the ninth inning. As he had done so many times today, Kurt Suzuki led off the inning with a single. That was followed by a Swanson walk and a sacrifice bunt by Johan Camargo. With the game winning run on third with one-out, Don Mattingly dipped into his bag of tricks, employing Marcell Ozuna to play as a fifth infielder against Lane Adams.

Marlins infielders from left to right: Anderson, Rojas, Gordon, Ozuna, Realmuto. Stanton and Yelich in the outfield.

Barraclough worked the righty hard-and-in and forced Adams to ground out to Miguel Rojas. Micah Johnson — the pinch runner for Kurt Suzuki — ran on first contact, and was subsequently gunned down at the plate. Two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Despite the clutch play, Kyle Barraclough was dealing with control issues. After loading the bases with a walk to Nick Markakis, Barraclough walked Ender Inciarte and the winning run on four pitches. That’s right, everyone’s favorite — the walk-off walk. The final score was 6-5.

Fireworks for a walk-off walk by Ender Inciarte
Win expectancy graph courtesy of

I have now seen two games in SunTrust Park, and in both games, I have watched pitching meltdowns lead to walk-off wins for the Braves. This is the only saving grace I can offer: as a lifelong Florida Gator fan, a graduate from the University of Florida, and a lifelong Marlins fan, I can say for certain that the tomahawk chop is incredibly intimidating. Consider this my Pedro Martinez confession; for a place that has welcomed in hurricane evacuees for free, the tomahawk chop makes SunTrust Park the most unwelcoming atmosphere in the game of baseball. That is in no way a knock on Braves fans — quite the opposite, it is a compliment to their perseverance, that through their endless and perpetual repetition of the chop and the war chant all through the late innings, the fans give the Atlanta Braves the biggest home field advantage in Major League Baseball.

It is a sinking feeling to be wearing orange and black in the stands while the chop is happening; I couldn’t possibly understand what it would feel like to try and grapple with your control, or orchestrate a game-plan with the war chant stuck on a broken record. The lights shine bright and the music plays loud in Atlanta. Bullpen pitchers are human beings too, and although they are the ones making the big bucks to deal with it, sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for them.

Nonetheless, they say a bad day at the baseball stadium is better than a good day at work. This wasn’t even a bad day — even though the Marlins lost, the experience of the SunTrust Park and The Battery made for an excellent time. I would highly recommend any Marlins fan to put it on their slate for next season.

In the season’s final game in SunTrust Park, the Marlins will be playing the Braves at 1:35 PM. Expecting father Odrisamer Despaigne will be taking on the weathered knuckleballer RA Dickey.

Statistics courtesy of

Best wishes and prayers for all of my family, friends, and other Florida residents in the path of Hurricane Irma. Stay safe. — Mitch