Marlins end 6-game losing streak with 4-1 win over Braves
ATLANTA (AP) With the Miami Marlins in desperate need of some good news, Brad Hand stepped forward on the mound and at the plate.
Hand threw seven strong innings and drove in two runs with sacrifice bunts and the Marlins ended a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
''He set the tone and gave us exactly what we needed,'' Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. ''He got a lot of early contact, executed pitches and I thought he utilized all his pitches. He got his fastball over, he used his slider very well and his changeup.''
In the second inning, Hand (2-2) bunted and was retired at first base as Cole Gillespie scored from third. In the fifth, he drove home J.T. Realmuto with another good bunt. Braves first baseman Nick Swisher tried to scoop the bunt and shovel it to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but it wasn't a clean play and Realmuto scored.
''We practice it a lot. We do it every day,'' Hand said of bunting. ''It was nice to get two bunts down.''
Hand had two career RBIs in 63 plate appearances entering the game. Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich had the other RBIs for the Marlins. Yelich had three hits.
The Marlins received disappointing news earlier Sunday when ace Jose Fernandez was diagnosed with a strained right biceps and appears headed for the disabled list.
''It is tough to lose your ace of the staff,'' Hand said. ''Everybody has to step up and try to fill the shoes.''
Hand had shut the Braves down over three relief appearances this season, allowing one hit over eight innings. His dominance continued Sunday, with only Miller getting a hit in the first six innings.
''I kept the ball down,'' Hand said. ''I made a few mistakes and got away with a few. One mistake to (Jonny) Gomes. J.T. (Realmuto) called a great game. We were on the same page the whole time.''
Gomes homered to left field in the seventh inning to cut the Braves' deficit to 3-1. It was his fifth of the season.
The Miami bullpen, which had been lit up for 12 runs in 11 innings in the first three games of the series, managed to preserve the win. A.J. Ramos pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 18th save.
Shelby Miller (5-9) extended his winless streak to 15 starts. Miller went five innings, giving up two runs, five hits and three walks. He labored through two 24-pitch innings to start the game.
''Eventually, I'm going to win a game,'' Miller said. ''Right now, it's all about going out there and trying to get a win, more than myself.''
The Braves had won three straight overall and six in a row over the last-place Marlins.
Atlanta threatened in the eighth against Bryan Morris, but he stranded runners at second and third by striking out Cameron Maybin and getting Nick Markakis on a deep fly to right.
The Braves managed two runners in the fifth on an error and walk, but Casey McGehee made a nice scoop at first base on a long throw from Martin Prado for the third out.
Marlins: Fernandez (4-0, 2.30 ERA in 7 starts) returned to Miami on Saturday after his five-inning outing Friday. Jennings said he hopes Fernandez will pitch again this season. ''I think he wants to pitch,'' Jennings said. ''We have to be smart in terms of where we are in this season. He's worked extremely hard. We won't put him out there until we know he is 100 percent. There is no need to push it or rush it.''
Marlins: The Marlins open a two-game series against the Red Sox in Miami on Tuesday. Rookie Justin Nicolino (1-1, 4.09) will be recalled from Triple-A New Orleans and make his third start as a Marlin. He made two starts in late June before returning to the minors. Knuckleballer Steven Wright (5-4, 4.12) will start for Boston fresh off a start where he held the Yankees to one run over eight innings.
Braves: The Braves visit the Rays for a two-game series starting Tuesday. Rookie Williams Perez (4-2, 4.48) will make his 11th start of the season and second against the Rays. He gave up one run over five innings against the Rays in his first career start on May 20. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (8-4) will start for the Rays.
The National League's two longest active hitting streaks were snapped as Nick Markakis (15 games) went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and Pierzynski (13 games) was 0 for 4, including grounding into a double play.
Forty-one-year-old Ichiro Suzuki still looks spry in the outfield and on the bases. The first-year Marlin made four putouts in right field, including a key running catch in the eighth of Markakis with two on. He made a nice running grab in the first inning on Jace Peterson. In the ninth inning, he tripled to right field.