Derek Dietrich had the game of his life.
Then he had the scare of his life.
After driving in a career-high four runs in the Marlins’ 7-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, Dietrich was standing inside the dugout when he was hit in the back of the head by a line-drive foul off the bat of teammate Christian Yelich.
Dazed, Dietrich lay face down on the dugout floor for minutes before he was able to get on his feet and walk back to the clubhouse. Manager Don Mattingly said Dietrich was being evaluated by an on-site doctor at Turner Field.
“That ball came in and ricocheted off the wall,” Mattingly said. “He didn’t lose consciousness. There was really no blood. He just got hit really good. The ball was coming in hot and probably gained speed off the wall.”
Said Marlins first baseman Chris Johnson: “He looks a little dazed, a little out of it. He’s a tough kid, that’s for sure. He’s a strong guy. He should be all right.”
Dietrich is tied for the league lead in getting hit by pitches, so he’s accustomed to aches and pains. But Yelich’s foul ball in the ninth inning caught him with his back turned to the play.
The Marlins later announced that X-rays on Dietrich came back negative but that he would remain in Atlanta overnight for evaluation.
Johnson said the visitors’ dugout at the Braves’ stadium is actually one of the safest in the majors in terms of protecting players from foul balls, with protective netting covering up much of the open areas.
To that point, Dietrich was enjoying one of the best games of his career.
The home run pop the Marlins hoped Dietrich would provide in the absence of Dee Gordon hadn’t materialized. Dietrich had managed to put just one ball over the fence since Gordon began serving his drug suspension on April 29 — and that came way back on April 30.
But Dietrich unleashed on a Julio Teheran fastball on Sunday, a two-run crusher in the sixth that spared the Marlins the ignominy of bowing to the Braves, owners of the worst record in the National League, for a sixth time in a row. One at-bat later, Dietrich doubled to deep center, driving in two more runs.
It was his home run off Teheran, though, that jarred the Marlins to life.
With the score tied, Dietrich, who went to college at nearby Georgia Tech, walloped a 432-foot shot to right that brought an immediate end to Teheran’s day and helped deliver a much-needed win for the Marlins.
“Obviously, that home run was big for us,” Mattingly said.
And so what could have turned into a disastrous ending to a short road trip that started well with a pair of wins in St. Petersburg turned out well enough with a series-ending win at Turner Field. Despite losing two of three against the Braves, the Marlins went 3-2 on the trip.
The Braves are leaving Turner Field after the season and moving into a new ballpark north of Atlanta. The Braves’ departure can’t happen soon enough for the Marlins, who have fared poorly at Turner Field over the years.
They have gone just 65-103 there.
For five innings on Sunday, it was shaping up as a possible repeat of the Marlins’ first five games against the Braves. They were the first to take the lead — just like all five times before — with a run in the fourth before the Braves scratched back with a run of their own in the same inning.
Tom Koehler, meanwhile, was turning in a workmanlike effort. Koehler, who had issued five walks in each of his three previous starts, walked four in the first four innings on Sunday. But he pitched into the eighth before succumbing to a two-run pushback by the Braves.
Still, the outcome was not settled until Dietrich came through with his bat.
Justin Bour started the sixth with a one-out double before Dietrich connected on Teheran’s 0-1 offering, a 92-mph fastball that Dietrich deposited so far up into the bleachers that Braves right fielder Nick Markakis simply turned to watch.
The Marlins came up with three more runs in the seventh. Martin Prado doubled and later scored on a Johnson single, and Dietrich delivered the knockout punch when he sent a drive over the head of Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte that scored two more runs.
The four RBI marked a career high for Dietrich.
Marcell Ozuna continued his hot streak, going 2 for 4 with a homer and extending his streak of reaching base to 36 games in a row.
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