Little by little the Marlins are getting the band back together.
And they hope it’s not too late to see them play their way into the postseason.
With most of their key pieces back in their lineup, the Marlins continued to generate offense more consistently and Tuesday night it resulted in a much-needed 7-5 victory over the Braves at Turner Field.
The Marlins (72-73) beat the Braves for only the fifth time in 14 meetings this season, and scored seven or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since August 7-8.
“We had a pretty good struggle there in August as an offense,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I think we’re seeing our guys getting back. For a good bit there we were missing two big cogs in our offense.
Despite winning for the fourth time in six games, the Marlins couldn’t gain ground in the Wild Card chase as both the Mets and Cardinals also won Tuesday. Miami remains five games behind the Mets and 4½ games behind St. Louis with 17 games left to play.
“Hopefully we can put a flash together here and just kind of go on a run and do something,” Mattingly said. “If you just keep winning games, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Christian Yelich reached base four times and gave the Marlins their first lead at 3-2 in the third with a two-run double off Braves starter Matt Wisler.
After the Braves tied the game on a solo home run by Matt Kemp off Esch in the fourth, the Marlins answered with three more in the fifth.
Marcell Ozuna did not miss any playing time after taking a fastball to the left knee in Monday night’s loss, and put the Marlins ahead for good with a single that scored Ichiro Suzuki.
Justin Bour drove in another run with a single to center that scored Yelich, and J.T. Realmuto gave the Marlins a 6-3 lead on a run-scoring ground out.
Ichiro tripled to lead off that inning, which coupled and along with his single in the third, recorded his 900th career multi-hit game. Ichiro increased his all-time hits total to 3,027 one night after surpassing Lou Brock for 25th on the all-time MLB list.
The Marlins’ bullpen pitched the final 5 1/3 innings and worked its way out of trouble twice to hang on to the lead.
Justin Nicolino struck out two batters in a pair of scoreless innings in relief of starter Jake Esch to pick up the win.
Nicolino’s first pitch after entering the game with the bases loaded and two outs induced Ender Inciarte to hit a grounder back to the mound and the final out of the fourth inning, preserving a 3-3 tie.
“It was a lot of fun just to get out there and a get a big out in a big situation and go back out there and have a clean inning, and do my job,” Nicolino said. “The biggest thing was just going out there and executing my pitches, and not worrying about guys on.”
The Braves cut the Marlins lead to 6-5 in the seventh off Austin Brice. Kyle Barraclough gave up an inherited run on a single by Nick Markakis and walked Tyler Flowers to load the bases. But Barraclough induced a ground ball from Jace Peterson that resulted in a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
The inning-ending out came moments after bench coach Tim Wallach was ejected by home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus.
“[Wallach] was talking about dinner or something and [the umpire] misunderstood what he was saying,” Mattingly said. “Wally fired up Barraclough. I think he said he wasn’t buying him dinner if he didn’t get that out.”
Yefri Perez’s blazing speed gave the Marlins a big insurance run in the eighth. Pinch running for Bour, Perez scored the seventh Marlins’ run on a wild pitch on a ball that did not roll very far up the third base line. But it was enough for Perez to run past Braves catcher Tyler Flowers and slide just inside the base line and out of the reach of his tag. Perez set up the play by stealing second and later advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Adeiny Hechavarria.
“I was ready, watching the ball, trying to figure out the ball in the dirt,” Perez said. “I saw the ball, I took a good read. It gave me a chance to score and I did. That was the only way to figure out my spot to slide because I couldn’t go straight, and maybe hit the catcher. They gave me a spot and I made the play.”
Perez, a switch hitter, can’t play in the field due to a thumb injury.
But the Marlins recalled him from Double-A Jacksonville following the roster expansion at the start of September hoping to benefit from his speed on the base paths.
“I don’t think there should be a book on this kid,” Mattingly said. “He’s in Single-A last year and all of a sudden he’s on the big-league radar. Right now it’s for speed, but we think he works so hard and has such a good attitude.
“He can play the infield or the outfield, and he’s kind of in that [Emilio] Bonifacio mold as a guy that can fly and play multiple positions. We think he’s going to be an exciting player for us in the years to come.”
Mattingly exhaled as he reflected on what was a relatively stress-free eighth and ninth innings for his team’s bullpen.
A.J. Ramos picked up his 35th save of the season and third in the past five games since returning to the closer role.