MIAMI -- One couldn’t blame the Marlins if the thought, “Here we go again,” crossed their minds as soon as the Braves erased an early four-run deficit during Friday night’s matchup at loanDepot park.
The National League East champion Braves have had the Marlins’ number in recent memory, in particular this year. Entering the series opener, Atlanta had won nine of 10 and outscored Miami, 83-29.
The Marlins took a step in exorcising that mentality when Jacob Stallings knocked the go-ahead bases-clearing double in a five-run seventh and Luis Arraez recorded his first career multihomer game in a 9-6 comeback win. Miami remained a half-game back of Arizona and Cincinnati for the third NL Wild Card spot.
“I just kind of had a feeling I was going to get it done,” Stallings said. “It's kind of funny. I looked at where the left fielder was [the] pitch before the hit. I don't know why. I just looked out there and just felt like I was going to get it done, so it's just really cool to come through for the guys, and obviously, [a] huge game for us.”
- Games remaining: vs. ATL (2), vs. NYM (3), vs. MIL (3), at NYM (3), at PIT (3)
- Standings update: The Marlins (76-72) remained a half-game back of the D-backs (77-72) and the Reds (77-72) for the third NL Wild Card spot, and moved a half-game ahead of the Giants (75-72). The Marlins hold the first tiebreaker, based on head-to-head matchups, over the D-backs (4-2). Having tied the season series (3-3) with the other two clubs, Miami (22-22 against the NL East) holds the second tiebreaker (intradivisional record) over Cincinnati (19-27 against the NL Central) but not San Francisco (22-15 against the NL West).
Miami scored just five runs in a four-game series in Milwaukee, where the club lost three of four, but the lineup matched that total against relievers Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand in the seventh. Like so many times before, Arraez set the tone. He led off the three-run first and the seventh with line-drive homers over the right-field wall.
“I want to say thanks [to] God,” said Arraez, whose nine homers in 2023 are a new single-season high. “I never hit two homers in my career here in MLB. I hit [two] in the [World] Baseball Classic, but that one doesn't count. It counts for my country, but it's amazing. I hit two homers. I never feel like what I feel right now. I don't try to hit homers, and then I did it.”
Following two outs, Jazz Chisholm Jr. singled and Garrett Hampson, who had replaced Bryan De La Cruz (right ankle discomfort) earlier in the game, drove him in with a double off Hand. An intentional walk and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Stallings, who laced a double down the left-field line to make it a 9-6 ballgame.
Since Aug. 18, Stallings has collected eight of his 20 RBIs this season. He also has seven doubles during this 16-game stretch, doubling his total from the previous 62 games.
Before this span, would he have come through in the clutch?
“I don't know. That's a good question,” Stallings said. “In Pittsburgh, it's kind of just what I did. I just got big hits and just knew I was going to get big hits. And when you get big hits, you have more confidence in those situations. So I've been more confident in those situations lately, and luckily, [I’ve been] able to come through.
“But I think confidence comes with good results a lot of times, so just coming through obviously helps.”
Stallings’ heroics made manager Skip Schumaker’s aggressive pull of veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto after just four innings and 70 pitches the right one. With Miami clinging to a 4-3 advantage, he decided against Cueto facing the middle of the order for a third time. Despite the Marlins going with a bullpen game on Saturday, he wanted to give the offense a chance to claw back -- something it did.
While JT Chargois permitted a then-game-tying sacrifice fly to Eddie Rosario in the fifth and David Robertson surrendered a then-go-ahead two-run single to Ozzie Albies in the sixth, A.J. Puk, Andrew Nardi and Tanner Scott tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way.
“Coming back against a team like that just shows you kind of the growth of our team and the belief they have in there, that they really believe that they can do this thing,” Schumaker said. “And again, just whatever happens, I'm super proud of the fight that they have.”