The Marlins said goodbye Wednesday night to Turner Field – one of their least favorite places to play the past two decades.
Their swan song included a near-brawl with the host Braves before coming back to beat them 7-5 for their second comeback win in as many games.
The Marlins (73-73) reached the .500-mark for the first time since Sept. 3 and moved to within four games of the Mets and 3½ of the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race.
The Marlins won back-to-back games against the Braves for the first time this season and finished with a 68-106 record in the 20 seasons of Turner Field.
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“We knew there was a game on the line [to pick up] today as far as the Mets,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Right now, it’s hard to look at that because we’re still a ways off. Every time you hear that music playing out there [in the clubhouse] you know it’s been a good night for us.”
Tensions ran high in the sixth inning when Jose Fernandez plunked Nick Markakis on the side with two outs and nobody on base.
Markakis had hit a two-run home run off Fernandez in the second, which led to the Braves scoring four runs that inning. Earlier in the game, Marcell Ozuna was also hit by a pitch from Julio Teheran.
Fernandez came to bat the next inning and reliever Jose Ramirez fired a 94.6 mph fastball near his head knocking him to the ground.
Fernandez made a move toward the mound prompting both benches and bullpens to clear at that point.
“Like everybody knows, I’m not known for hitting people,” Fernandez said. “If you think it’s on purpose, and you want to hit me, go ahead. Hit me. I don’t mind getting hit. That’s part of the game. But you don’t throw at somebody’s head because I have a family.
“Like I told a couple of them, I don’t care. Hit me if you feel like it. Just don’t throw at my head. I have a family, you have a family. How would you feel? [Ramirez] told me, ‘Hey, I understand. I understand. No problem. I have no problem with that.’ That was it.”
No punches were thrown nor was there any physical confrontations, but Fernandez and others traded some words.
Fernandez was seen talking to Markakis for a moment at the plate.
“I told [Markakis], ‘Hey, man. I throw you one of the best breaking balls that I have, and you hit it out,” Fernandez said. “I threw you another one and you hit the [stuffing] out of it. That second at-bat, I threw some good fastballs in, he was late on it. Jam. Jam. I was hoping, 2-0 [count], throw a fastball in, he hits a pop up to second base. Obviously, that was not the case. The ball slipped out of my hands, and I hit him.”
After a few moments after the verbal exchange, both sides slowly walked back to their dugouts.
Ramirez was ejected by plate umpire Marvin Hudson, but no warnings were issued.
“It’s just one of those games where guys are getting hit on both sides and things start to get a little hairy,” Mattingly said. “You’re just really trying to get guys out of it because they stand there and start chirping. I’ve learned from being part of those that as a manager you have to try and stop it from happening and diffuse it.”
Fernandez got off to a rough start, giving up four runs in the second inning, but delivered five scoreless frames from that point on to become the first Marlins pitcher to win 15 games in a season since Josh Johnson in 2009.
Fernandez, who is over two years removed from Tommy John surgery, also surpassed a career-high for innings pitched in a season with 173.
For the season, Fernandez is 15-8 with a 2.99 ERA and 241 strikeouts which is second only to Max Scherzer’s 251.
Fernandez threw 106 pitches, gave up six hits and walked two and recorded all three of his strikeouts from the sixth inning on. He bounced back from a dismal outing in his previous start in Atlanta on July 2 in which he gave up nine runs, six of which were earned in 5 2/3 innings.
Ozuna put the Marlins ahead for good with a three-run home run in the top of that sixth inning that began with a Dee Gordon triple. Gordon, who stole three bases, scored on an infield single by Derek Dietrich.
Back to back singles off Mike Dunn led to the Braves cutting the deficit to 6-5 in the eighth, but David Phelps minimized the damage with two clutch outs.
After the Marlins manufactured a run, scored by J.T. Realmuto on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki, A.J. Ramos nailed down his 36th save and fourth in the past six games.
“We needed that win,” Ramos said. “We started off a little shaky. What I’ve always said about this team, there is no quit in it. We showed that again.”
After the game, Mattingly said the team hopes to have Giancarlo Stanton available to play in the field Friday in Philadelphia. Stanton has only been used to pinch hit since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 6.