Nathan Eovaldi did his job Sunday.
He avoided the big inning. He matched a season-high with 113 pitches. And he provided the Marlins with his best start in three weeks.
It still wasn't good enough.
Alex Wood was simply better.
The 23-year-old left-hander matched a career-high with a dozen strikeouts and got the only run he needed when Evan Gattis belted a solo home run to left off Eovaldi to open the second inning as the Braves blanked the Marlins 1-0 in front of 45,754 fans at Turner Field.
“He set us up perfect to be where we need to be,” Marlins All-Star Giancarlo Stanton said of Eovaldi. “And we didn't do a damn thing with it.”
Stanton would know. He finished 0-for-4.
And after Eovaldi, Christian Yelich and Donovan Solano all singled off Wood with one out in the sixth, Stanton stepped into the batter's box with a chance to put the Marlins in position to end a disappointing road trip on a high note.
Instead, he whiffed on three pitches. Wood then fell behind 3-1 on Casey McGehee before freezing him with a slider for a called strike three.
“Frankly a slider was the last thing on my mind,” McGehee said. “He made a heck of a pitch in the biggest part of the game. So you’ve got to give him credit. Obviously, I wish I would have swung at it. As good of a pitch as it was as far as location, it was still something that I felt I could have done something with.”
The Marlins didn't put another runner on base after that until McGehee singled to right off Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the ninth. But Kimbrel quickly redeemed himself, striking out pinch-hitter Garrett Jones to end the game and pick up his major-league leading 41st save.
It was the first time the Marlins had been blanked since June 21 against Jacob deGrom and the Mets, ending baseball's active longest streak of consecutive games without a shutout at 60 games.
The loss couldn't have come at worse time for the Marlins. They had a chance Sunday to salvage the final series of their nine-game, 10-day road trip. But just like they did in Colorado and Anaheim, the Marlins dropped the pivotal rubber game.
Wood, who was 1-3 with a .526 ERA in seven games against the Marlins, ended up going eight innings. He gave up only five hits on 101 pitches. And he didn’t walk a batter.
Two of the three double-digit strikeout games in Woods' career have come against the Marlins. He had 11 against them back on April 22.
“He was giving us pitches to hit,” said Stanton, who went 3-for-21 with 12 strikeouts over the final six games of the Marlins’ road trip. “We struck out a lot, but I don't know. It wasn't stuff we hadn't seen before. There was bad lighting because of the shadows [and the 5 p.m. start]. We were flat. We just didn't do many things well today.”
Eovaldi did. After going 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA over his three previous starts, he scattered nine hits over 6 2/3 innings but kept working himself out of trouble.
“I felt good for the most part,” said Eovaldi, who fell to 6-10 with a 4.19 ERA. “I thought I misplaced some fastballs. I missed that one with Gattis right down the middle — the difference in the game. But I was able to come out this game and I was able to locate the off-speed pitches a lot better than my previous outings and I think that was the biggest key.”
The Marlins now enter final month of the season a half-dozen games back in the wild card race. But they’re not giving up hope.
McGehee said it’s a good thing they’ll get right back out on the field Monday afternoon at home against the Mets.
“We've just got to keep grinding,” manager Mike Redmond said. “It wasn't the way we drew up the road trip. But it's over.
“We're one good winning streak away from being right back in this thing. I feel like we've got another good run left in us.”