Nobody had a rougher start to the season at the plate for the Marlins than Adeiny Hechavarria. But he is beginning to put that 1-for-22 skid behind him.
Celebrating his 26th birthday, the Cuban-born shortstop and No. 8 hitter had three hits including his first home run Wednesday afternoon to help guide the Marlins to their first series victory of the season, 6-2 over the Braves at Turner Field.
“When I stepped on home [plate], heard the [players chanting] happy birthday and clapping for me [from the dugout]. It made me emotional,” said Hechavarria, who now has five career homers in 303 games with the Marlins.
After hitting only one homer in their first eight games, the Marlins (3-6) actually hit two balls out. Michael Morse belted his 100th career home run — and first as a Marlin — off Cody Martin in the sixth to give Miami a 5-0 lead.
But it was Hechavarria’s fourth-inning home run, a two-run shot off Braves starter Eric Stults, that turned a 2-0 Marlins lead into a comfortable 4-0 cushion for Dan Haren. Hechavarria finished 3 for 3 with a sacrifice fly, three RBI and was 7 for 11 in the series, raising his batting average to .242.
“Since the season started a week ago I had uncomfortable swings,” said Hechavarria, who became the ninth Marlins player to homer on his birthday. “I was hitting the ball hard, but it wasn’t until this series I felt better at the plate. I think making good swings and looking to drive up the middle has helped me.”
Robbed of what should have been his first win of the season Friday when the Marlins bullpen coughed up an 8-1 lead against the Rays, Haren went seven innings and surrendered only three hits. Two were leadoff home runs by Cameron Maybin and Kelly Johnson in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Braves (6-3) didn’t get their first hit off Haren until Andrelton Simmons singled to center with two outs in the fifth. Haren finished with five strikeouts, two walks and threw 68 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
Afterward, Haren tipped his cap to catcher J.T. Realmuto, who made his first start of the season and finished 2 for 3 with a walk and a run. Manager Mike Redmond called Realmuto’s performance “a nice spark.”
“J.T. did a great job back there,” Haren said. “I’m not out there throwing 95 [miles per hour], but I have a pretty detailed game plan I went over with him the last few days. He did outstanding calling pitches, very rarely shook. He’s only caught one bullpen that I’ve thrown. He didn’t catch me at all in spring training. I thought it was going to be really tough for him because I throw a lot of pitches in a lot of different counts to different sides of the plate and he did really, really good. I was impressed.”
Marlins players who have homered on their birthday
April 15, 2015
June 27, 1993
May 8, 1994
July 20, 1996
July 19, 1999
Derrek Lee (twice)
Sept. 6, 2001, 2003
Paul Lo Duca
April 12, 2005
May 2, 2014
▪ Redmond said he is hopeful left fielder Christian Yelich (back tightness) can return to the lineup Thursday against the Mets, but he is not going to push the Gold Glove-winner back before he’s ready.
▪ The Marlins optioned reliever Carter Capps back down to the minors after Wednesday’s game to make room for David Phelps, who is coming off the paternity list Thursday and making the start Friday in place of the injured Henderson Alvarez. Jose Urena is sticking around with the team to provide long relief.
Urena was happy he was able to make his big-league debut and pitch a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s 8-2 win over the Braves.
“I felt good, got an inning in, looked good, wasn’t nervous,” Urena said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. The majority of people who get called up the first time come up for a short time. The important thing is to take a good experience back with you to the minors.”
Thursday: Marlins RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 1.50) at Mets RHP Dillon Gee (0-1, 9.00), 7:10 p.m. Citi Field.
Friday: Marlins RHP David Phelps (0-0, 36.00) at Mets RHP Bartolo Colon (2-0, 2.77), 7:10 p.m. Citi Field.