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Marlins 3, Braves 1; Home Chen shuts down NL East leaders

Also, Dansby Swanson doesn’t want you to have nice things.

Photo by @LosMarlins/Twitter

The Marlins (53-78) continued to shake off their second-half slump on Saturday night, riding an excellent combined pitching effort to a 3-1 win, their fifth in the past seven contests.

  • Aníbal Sánchez: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (98 pitches)
  • Wei-Yin Chen: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K (109 pitches)

Chen thrived by pounding the outside corner against right-handed batters and getting his opponents to chase fastballs above the zone. Miami nemesis Ronald Acuña Jr. gave him trouble, reaching base in all three matchups and working deep counts in the process...but that’s about it.

Braves manager Brian Snitker made a bizarre decision that was widely second-guessed in real time. As his team threatened with two on and two out in the sixth inning, the game still scoreless, Snitker elected to have Sánchez bat for himself rather than call upon a capable pinch-hitter. Predictably, the veteran right-hander went down on strikes, then immediately faltered in the bottom of the frame. Rafael Ortega ripped a triple to right field and scored the game’s first run on a J.T. Realmuto sacrifice fly.

The Marlins added some insurance against Atlanta’s bullpen. A rare rest day for Brian Anderson must have done the trick—he had been struggling to hit for power lately, but barreled this Chad Sobotka pitch to extend the lead to 3-0.

More to that point, Anderson homered for only the second time since the All-Star break. He would need to do that on a regular basis over the next month to make a late charge for NL Rookie of the Year consideration.

Kyle Barraclough successfully returned from the disabled list by working a scoreless eighth inning, and that’s when I began to get nervous.

As of Chen’s official first pitch, more than 100 Twitter users had eagerly “liked” our vague offer of “free game tickets” if the Marlins completed a second consecutive shutout. Given that several high-leverage relievers appeared the previous night and the NL East-leading Braves had talent and urgency to win on their side, I figured this was a fairly unreasonable scenario.

Thank goodness Dansby Swanson and Drew Steckenrider bailed me out. The otherwise-meaningless solo home run was a no-doubter to left field and the only offense for the Braves, who went hitless with runners in scoring position.

It also contributed to Steckenrider’s extreme splits against his hometown team. So far in 2018, he has allowed the majority of his homers—three of five—and total runs—11 of 21—to Atlanta. Take away those appearances and the 27-year-old would be lauded as one of baseball’s elite late-inning options.

For the 19th and final time this season, the Marlins and Braves face off on Sunday afternoon (1:10 p.m.). Kevin Gausman and Pablo López are your probable starters. Expect Bryan Holaday to start at catcher and Anderson to return to the lineup, but I’ll have the coverage here at Fish Stripes when we actually know what Don Mattingly chooses to do.

August 25, 2018 win probability chart
Courtesy of FanGraphs

Attendance: 7,823