Grilli strikes out Stanton for save as Braves beat Miami 6-4
MIAMI (AP) With the game on the line in the ninth inning, Atlanta Braves closer Jason Grilli decided he would rather pitch to Giancarlo Stanton than Christian Yelich.
He made the correct choice.
Grilli earned his first save since July when he struck out Stanton on three pitches with two on Saturday to seal the Braves' 6-4 victory over the Miami Marlins. The Braves won for the second consecutive night after losing their first nine games.
Grilli, coming back from an Achilles' tendon injury that ended his 2015 season, struck out the side in the ninth. But he also gave up a one-out single, and with two out he walked Yelich to face the Marlins' $325 million slugger.
''I guess everybody sits there and says, `Uh, you want to pitch to Stanton?''' Grilli said. ''But that's the feel of the game. I was watching the game, and Yelich seemed locked in. I didn't want to give in to him.''
Nick Markakis drove in three runs with three hits for the Braves, who are now 27-12 at Marlins Park and will try for a three-game sweep Sunday. They came to Miami mired in their worst start since 1988.
''Had to get a little Cuban coffee,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Miami fell to 0-4 at home under first-year manager Don Mattingly.
Adeiny Hechavarria and Justin Bour each hit his first homer off Bud Norris (1-2), who nonetheless earned his first victory since joining the Braves. He allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings, and the Atlanta bullpen shut out Miami the rest of the way.
Hunter Cervenka struck out Dee Gordon with two runners in scoring position to end the seventh. With closer Arodys Vizcaino unavailable because of his workload Friday, Grilli pitched the ninth.
''This one is special,'' Grilli said. ''I come back from a big injury, and to get that first one was meaningful.''
Stanton struck out four times, and his average fell to .229.
''I don't think he's necessarily pressing,'' Mattingly said. ''Obviously, he's probably a little frustrated with the way the night ended, but I think he's close. One good swing, one good take, the next thing you know, the guy's on a roll.''
Markakis put the Braves ahead to stay in the fourth when he drove in a run with his eighth double, most in the majors. He led off the game with a single and hit a two-out, two-run single in the second.
He has 12 RBIs, which also ranks among the MLB leaders, and is batting .350.
Tom Koehler (0-2) lasted only 3 2/3 innings and allowed nine hits and six runs. Koehler walked Norris with two out to load the bases in the second inning, and Markakis made him pay for the lapse with a two-run single.
A throwing error by shortstop Hechavarria - his third error this year - led to an unearned run in the third. It scored on a two-out bloop double by Kelly Johnson.
Struggling Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman had a run-scoring double and hiked his average to .125.
''There's a little thunder,'' Gonzalez said. ''It's in the distance, but it's coming. He's getting closer and closer to being the Freddie Freeman we know.''
Braves 2B Gordon Beckham pulled up running out a groundout in the sixth inning and left the game with a strained left hamstring. He hurt the same leg in spring training.
''It's definitely a little sore,'' he said. ''Hopefully, I can be back in there in a couple of days.''
Despite bullpen issues, Miami has resisted the temptation to call up any youngsters from the minors, and Mattingly endorses the patient approach.
''I know they've had a tendency here to always bring guys right away,'' the new Miami manager said. ''One thing we're trying to do is let those guys develop a little bit, knowing that we're going to need them.''
Vizcaino was unavailable after throwing 35 pitches Friday, and he might be unavailable Sunday too, Gonzalez said.
Braves RHP Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 0.00), who threw six shutout innings Tuesday at Washington, will start the series finale Sunday against RHP Jarred Cosart (0-0, 5.79).