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MIA 5, ATL 9; Acuña HBP flips Game 1 in favor of Braves

Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud led a nine-run Braves attack to rally back from an early deficit and beat the Fish.

Division Series - Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Marlins find themselves in a 1-0 hole in the National League Division Series after yielding nine runs to the Braves—including eight unanswered at one point—in Tuesday’s loss. It could’ve turned out quite differently if not for a Ronald Acuña Jr. hit by pitch.

  • Sandy Alcantara—6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR (95 pitches)
  • Max Fried—4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR (70 pitches)

Acuña led off the first inning as he so often does: with a solo home run. Even by his standards, this one was majestic, soaring an estimated 428 feet to right-center field.

Miguel Rojas countered with a no-doubter of his own in the top of the second. That swing alone was reassuring for a Marlins team that was held scoreless by Max Fried for 6 13 innings earlier this season.

Starting in place of the injured Starling Marte, center fielder Magneuris Sierra sparked a rally in the third, a familiar sight for those of you have been watching the Marlins since the start of the summer. Sierra and Jon Berti singled, then both came around to score on Garrett Cooper’s double to left. Emerging from his mini-slump, Brian Anderson extended the lead to 4-1 with a single to center.

Meanwhile, Sandy Alcantara was seemingly in a groove, racking up more whiffs than usual during his first pass through the Braves lineup.

Alcantara began his third inning plate appearance versus Acuña with a luscious slider for a called strike. And then...

The young outfielder understandably got angry about the 98 mile-per-hour mistake, especially considering the Marlins’ history of plunking him that dates back to 2018. Interviewed on the FS1 television broadcast the next inning, manager Don Mattingly insisted that the plunking was 100% unintentional and Anderson reiterated those sentiments during the club’s postgame media conference.

Showing no ill effects, Acuña bolted around to score from first on Marcell Ozuna’s double. Travis d’Arnaud brought home Ozuna to tighten up the score to 4-3.

Ultimately, one team’s bullpen was much more effective than the other. Aside from a softly struck Matt Joyce RBI single, the Atlanta relievers dominated.

Mattingly clearly didn’t have the same trust in his ‘pen that Brian Snitker did. He pushed Alcantara into a seventh inning of work, including a fourth matchup with Acuña resulting in a sharp single up the middle.

Right-hander Yimi García entered with the Marlins still leading, 4-3, but he was tasked with holding the potential tying and go-ahead runs. Those are foreign circumstances for García, who only inherited three total baserunners during his excellent 2020 regular season.

Ozuna and d’Arnaud each mashed hanging sliders to flip the game around.

Putting the game practically out of reach, Dansby Swanson took James Hoyt deep to left. That was the first earned run charged to Hoyt since mid-August.

Even Ryne Stanek—who made the NLDS roster against my advice—walked the bases loaded in the eighth, struggling to fool the Braves into chase pitches out of the zone. He got Ozzie Albies to fly out, preventing the game from deteriorating into a true blowout.

Frustrating as this opener was, it doesn’t merit overreactions. Sweeping an opponent like the Braves in a best-of-five series, a team that’s both extremely talented and familiar with Miami, was never a reasonable scenario. Alcantara performed better than the final line implies and expressed a willingly to contribute on short rest if a do-or-die Game 5 is necessary. The Fish can still mount a comeback.

With right-hander Ian Anderson taking the mound for the Braves on Wednesday, expect Joyce to get a start in place of Lewis Brinson. Corey Dickerson could move up to the leadoff spot. Otherwise, no significant changes are expected for a Marlins offense that pulled its weight in Game 1.

Meanwhile, Pablo López will make his postseason debut. It will be his first official game since tossing five scoreless frames Sept. 24 against these same Braves.

Marlins vs. Braves Box Score

Fish Picks Answer Key

  1. Alcantara
  2. Over
  3. Yes
  4. No
  5. Braves