No matter where they’ve played — Miami or Atlanta — the Marlins haven’t enjoyed much success this season against the Braves.
It was a different story on Sunday night at Fort Bragg, though, where the Marlins handed the Braves a 5-2 loss in the first professional regular-season game in any sport played at a U.S. military base.
With a festive crowd of 12,582 soldiers and their families looking on, the Marlins received a strong outing by starting pitcher Adam Conley and timely hitting from the top half of their lineup.
Conley pitched six shutout innings while the Marlins’ first three hitters — J.T. Realmuto, Martin Prado and Christian Yelich — combined for nine hits and four RBI.
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It was an eventful night for Realmuto, in particular.
He struck out in each of his first two at-bats and was charged with a throwing error in the fifth.
“It definitely didn’t start off how I wanted,” Realmuto said.
But after Adeiny Hechavarria tripled in the fifth, his single drove in the game’s first run. Realmuto singled again in the seventh and hit the first homer at Fort Bragg Field with his solo shot in the ninth. He also stole a base and scored three runs.
“Anytime you can be the first to do something like that before a crowd like this, kind of give these [soldiers] a show, was really special for me,” Realmuto said of being the first — and only player to homer at Fort Bragg Field.
Realmuto said he was wowed by the atmosphere.
“Nothing but goosebumps,” Realmuto said of playing in front of the troops. “I got goosebumps multiple times tonight. The flyover for the anthem and when they were chanting ‘U.S.A.’ ”
Realmuto’s sentiments were echoed by Marlins players and coaches.
“Probably the best venue that I’ve ever played in,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I had the chance to play at Yankee Stadium, the playoffs. There is nothing like tonight.”
Conley was touched as well.
“I know this has been my favorite place to ever pitch in my life,” he said. “It’s an honor that it falls on my day that I got to start. The folks that are here and involved in the military are making sacrifices far greater than I’m making. So it’s very humbling for me and helps me put things in perspective.”
Realmuto even said his on-field performance Sunday won’t be what he remembers most from the day.
“Honestly, the biggest memory of this whole experience was what I got to do this morning, hanging out with the troops and going to see the special forces, and seeing what they do every day for this country,” Realmuto said. “I’ll definitely remember that the rest of my life.”
He wasn’t the only Marlin who had a big night.
Yelich and Prado each went 3 for 5 and drove in a run.
“That was a great experience,” Yelich said. “It’s something I’m going to remember and a lot of the guys in that locker room are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
Conley gave up a pair of singles in the first but got out of the inning unharmed. He gave up just two more hits over the next five innings before departing as the bullpen took over. David Phelps and Fernando Rodney preserved the shutout going into the ninth before the Braves broke through with two runs off A.J. Ramos.