The last time the Marlins swept the Braves, Fredi Gonzalez was manager.
The Marlins’ manager.
It hasn’t happened yet.
But, following another blowout victory over Atlanta on Wednesday, the Marlins put themselves in position to sweep the Braves, something they haven’t done since April of 2009, four managerial changes ago.
And Gonzalez will be watching it from the other dugout this time when the teams line up again Thursday, with the Braves trying to salvage a win out of a series that has gone badly for them.
For the second night in a row, the Marlins manhandled the Braves, registering a 9-3 victory to go with Tuesday’s 9-0 rout. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna each homered, and Nathan Eovaldi turned in seven strong innings as the Marlins brought Braves starter Aaron Harang back to earth.
Harang, 35, who had been enjoying an unexpected renaissance of sorts with the Braves (he bounced around with three teams last season and was released in March by the Indians), brought an ERA of 0.85 into Wednesday. By the time the Marlins finished torching him for seven runs, it elevated to a more robust 2.97.
“We swung the bat swell off a guy who’s been dominant this year,” manager Mike Redmond said.
Without question, these aren’t your offensively challenged Marlins of 2013. At least not so far.
The Marlins closed the month with 116 runs, a vast improvement over last April’s figure of 73, and more runs than they scored in any month last season.
“I guess that it would be an understatement to say it’s a better feeling than last year,” Redmond said. “But we still have a long ways to go.”
The contributions are coming up and down the lineup, from Yelich, who walloped his first home run, a two-run shot in the fourth, to eighth hitter Adeiny Hechavarria, who came through with a double and a triple on Wednesday to raise his average to .280. Ozuna clubbed a three-run homer, and Garrett Jones drove in a pair of runs with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Ozuna said the key to the improvement has been an effort on the part of everyone in the lineup — especially at home, where the Marlins are hitting .307 as a team — to focus on trying to hit up the middle. He said that he hit two fly balls on Tuesday that fell short of going out.
“[Tuesday], I hit two pop up flies out there and thought they were going, and my teammates were laughing and saying, ‘you need more lift,’ ” Ozuna said. “[Wednesday], I was thinking hitting the ball up the middle, and it went out. We hit to the middle because we know the stadium is big, and that way we score more runs.”
And then there was Eovaldi, who turned in his most impressive start of the season.
After giving up a leadoff double to Jason Heyward to start the game, Eovaldi didn’t allow another hit until Andrelton Simmons tripled off the wall to open the sixth. Total hits allowed by Eovaldi in seven innings: only three.
Eovaldi took a shutout into the sixth before mop-up reliever David Hale ended his bid with a sacrifice fly. Otherwise, the Marlins threatened to post back-to-back shutouts over their division rivals for the first time ever.
Instead, they held the Braves’ bats at bay again.
The Braves have scored only five runs against the Marlins over their past four games, and they didn’t put up much of a fight against Eovaldi, who is on a bit of a roll. Two of their runs on Wednesday came in the ninth on a Justin Upton home run, with the outcome already settled.
Over his past three starts, Eovladi has given up only one earned run in 19 combined innings. Two of those outings have come against the Braves.
“He’s got a big arm,” Redmond said of Eovaldi.