April 9, 2013

Miami Marlins shut out in home opener by Atlanta Braves

The Marlins’ home opener didn’t feature the glitz of last year, and it was spoiled by the team’s third shutout loss of the early season.

This time there were no women in Brazilian Carnival outfits to accompany players during pregame introductions or a Grammy Award-winning singer to belt out the national anthem.

Muhammad Ali wasn’t wheeled around alongside owner Jeffrey Loria to deliver the ceremonial first pitch — and neither Josh Johnson nor John Buck were there to play catch with it.

Opening Night at Marlins Park on Monday had far less glitz and glamour than it did a year ago.

There were fewer fans, too. A less-than-capacity crowd of 34,439 was announced.

In the end, though, the result was the same: the visitors won.

Led by left-hander Paul Maholm’s seven innings of one-hit ball, and four hits by newly acquired slugger Justin Upton, the Braves ruined another strong start by Kevin Slowey and blanked the Marlins 2-0.

The Marlins (1-6), shut out for the third time this season and off to their worst start since 2006 — produced just two hits: singles by Placido Polanco and catcher Rob Brantly.

“If Kevin Slowey gives us seven innings and gives up two runs, I’m pretty happy with that — I like our chances. We’re going to win a lot of games with that,” said skipper Mike Redmond, who managed his first game in the 1-year-old ballpark.

“I thought the fans were great. You could feel the energy. It was a way different feeling than Pro Player Stadium or whatever it is called now. And a lot cooler, too.

“I just wish we could of hit more. [Justin] Ruggiano just missed that ball [in the ninth]. Otherwise it would have been an exciting finish.”

Ruggiano drilled a pitch from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to left field with one out in the ninth.

But the ball didn’t carry enough and was roped in by Justin Upton for an out.

After Brantly followed with a two-out single to center, Kimbrel picked up his third save for Atlanta (6-1) and ended what little drama the game had when he struck out Adeiny Hechavarria swinging with runners on the corners.

“We’re still waiting for that big hit,” Redmond said. “We’ve been talking about it a few days.”

Slowey, who gave up just four hits and one earned run over 5 1/3 innings, tossed seven strong innings for the Marlins. He scattered six hits and struck out three while throwing 67 of his 93 pitches for strikes.

But he made two mistakes against Upton.

First, he gave up a leadoff double to Upton in the fourth which led to a run two batters later on Dan Uggla’s groundout to short.

Then in the sixth, Slowey threw a pitch in Upton’s wheelhouse, which he blasted for a solo home run to left.

The 400-foot line drive shot flew over the crowd and bounced off one of the concrete posts that holds up the left-field scoreboard.

“He’s a fantastic hitter with a great approach,” Slowey said of Upton, who leads the National League with six homers already this season. “His last at-bat he got a ball he could handle and he handled it. There are times you tip your hat. That guy is hitting really well.”

That was more than enough for Maholm, who struck out seven and survived what little trouble his three walks and one hit the Marlins produced.

Two of those walks came with two outs in the first to Giancarlo Stanton and Greg Dobbs.

But Maholm got Ruggiano to fly out to right to end the threat.

The only other time the Marlins put a runner in scoring position was in the third after Polanco singled and Stanton walked with two outs. Maholm ended the rally by striking out Dobbs. Stanton walked a career-high three times in all.

“He was pitching in and out and mixing speed, had a changeup going, curveball also,” Polanco said. “He kept us off-balance.”

The Marlins’ defensive highlight of the night came courtesy of Hechavarria, who ran out from his shortstop position to shallow left field and made a sliding, behind-the-head catch in foul ground.

The Braves (6-1) pounded out 10 hits, but finished 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

The Marlins, who have seen season-ticket sales drop from about 12,000 last season to about 5,000 this season after the club trimmed payroll from about $100 million to $35 million, had a pregame on-field ceremony featuring a video commemorating the 20th anniversary of the franchise as well as the 10th anniversary of the 2003 World Series.

Jeff Conine then teamed up with Mike Lowell to reenact the infamous relay throw home from the 2003 playoff win over the Giants. Conine threw the ball from left field to Lowell at third, who then threw the ball home to Brantly.

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