The Marlins and Braves had played 432 games over 25 years, and when the ninth inning rolled around on Saturday, the Marlins were on the cusp of a rivalry first: blanking the Braves in back-to-back games.
Alas, Dansby Swanson’s leadoff home run in the ninth off Drew Steckenrider prevented that from happening.
The Marlins were hardly upset. All the Swanson home run did was spoil a historical first. It didn’t prevent the Marlins from pulling off their second straight victory over the first-place Braves, a 3-1 victory that featured another strong night of pitching -- both starting and in relief -- by a Marlins pitching staff that has had more downs than ups this season.
And against a Braves team that has dominated them.
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One night after Marlins pitching shut down the first-place Braves in a 1-0 squeaker, Wei-Yin Chen kept the Braves at bay with one of his best-ever outings as a Marlin.
Chen turned in six scoreless innings, striking out a season-high 10 batters, and the bullpen did the rest as the Marlins contained Braves hitters once again.
“I think they’re a really good hitting team so you need all your pitches,” Chen said. “You need every single thing when you go against them.”
But the Braves’ bats have been cold ever since Atlanta’s 5-0 win on Thursday. Including Thursday’s game, the Braves had failed to score in 21 straight innings before Swanson homered in the ninth.
For the Marlins, the 21-inning scoreless streak was their longest in nearly two years.
It took one of Chen’s finest performances as a Marlin to keep the streak going. The 109 pitches thrown by Chen (5-9) were his most as a Marlin and most since Sept. 26, 2015, when he threw 111 in his final start for the Baltimore Orioles.
Chen can’t say if he’s the same pitcher now as he was then, just before the Marlins gave him an $80 million contract that is only now starting to bear some fruit. While Chen has struggled badly on the road this season, he has gone 4-3 with a 1.86 ERA in his home starts.
“I can’t really tell you if I’m exactly the same,” Chen said. “But I try to think the same, try to do the same thing, and try to focus on executing my pitches.”
The Marlins didn’t do a lot of scoring of their own on Saturday against former Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez held the Marlins scoreless through five innings before Rafael Ortega opened the sixth with a triple and scored on J.T. Realmuto’s sacrifice fly.
Brian Anderson came off the bench in the seventh to belt a pinch-hit two-run homer that gave the Marlins a 3-0 cushion.
Kyle Barraclough, in what was his first appearance since coming off the disabled list, delivered a scoreless eighth while Steckenrider, despite giving up the home run to Swanson, finished off the win for his second save.