Marlins swept handily in divisional litmus test

July 2nd, 2023

ATLANTA -- The Marlins entered the weekend somewhat downplaying the importance of their three-game series against the Braves.

Both arrived at Truist Park as the two hottest clubs in the Majors over the last month-plus. For years, Miami has been bullied by “big brother” Atlanta, the gold standard in the National League East -- if not the entire NL. Now was the time to prove progress had been made and the gap had closed.

That didn’t happen in Sunday afternoon’s 6-3 loss, as Miami was swept for just the second time this season -- both to Atlanta. The teams won’t meet again until mid-September in Miami.

“This is past already,” said , who produced a pair of RBI hits on Sunday but saw his average drop to .389 on the six-game trip through Boston and Atlanta. “They played really good baseball. Tomorrow's another day, and then we just need to continue to play hard.”

Here are some of the season numbers against the Braves compared to everyone else:

• 1-9 record vs. 47-28 record

• -54 run differential vs. +32 run differential

• 30 HR in 84 innings vs. 61 HR in 671 2/3 innings

Miami got off to a better start than the previous two games, when the pitching surrendered 11 combined runs in the first inning. Ace Sandy Alcantara escaped a bases-loaded jam when Marcell Ozuna grounded out to third.

And though All-Star right-hander Spencer Strider took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on April 24 against the Marlins, they managed five hits through two frames and took a 2-0 lead in the second. But Alcantara surrendered a solo homer to All-Star Orlando Arcia in the bottom half of the frame, and the Braves exposed Alcantara’s season-long weakness by wreaking havoc on the basepaths in the go-ahead three-run fifth.

Michael Harris II singled with one out, stole and advanced to third on a throwing error. Harris then scored on a wild pitch. All-Star Ronald Acuña Jr. followed with a walk and All-Star Ozzie Albies belted the go-ahead two-run homer just over the right-field wall. Later with Miami trailing 4-3 in the eighth, lefty Andrew Nardi permitted a two-run homer to Travis d’Arnaud that put the game out of reach.

“Since day 1 they've been aggressive against us, against all pitchers, but we know it,” said Alcantara, who has a 5.17 ERA in three starts vs. Atlanta in 2023. “We’ve just got to keep positive, get to Miami tonight, try to not think about it, try to win the next couple games that we have before the break.”

Sunday’s series finale might have lingering effects, as Jazz Chisholm Jr. was taken out of the game with left oblique soreness he sustained on a sixth-inning strikeout. In a one-run ballgame, Yuli Gurriel pinch-hit for the 2022 All-Star, who was sidelined for six weeks with turf toe.

Since his return on Tuesday, Chisholm had gone 8-for-23 (.348) with four extra-base hits and five RBIs. He may need to undergo testing on Monday when the club is back in Miami. If sidelined, the Marlins will miss him most on offense and on the bases.

“It's tough, but that's what we've got to learn from,” said Chisholm, who said he was still sore but feeling better after the game. “We learned that we've got to come here and we've got to fight every single at-bat. Every pitch we throw, every at-bat we're in the box, every pitch that comes towards us, we've got to be ready to fight.

“These guys are really good here, and we knew that before we got here, but they're really hot right now. We've just got to find a way to keep on going and battle against them. We know they're the best team in the league, but we can be better and we can beat them.”

While the general sentiment was disappointment, so was the importance of having a short-term memory. The Marlins will host the Cardinals and Phillies for seven games, beginning on Monday, to close out the first half.

“I think it just shows that we have to play better baseball to compete against a team like that,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “[We] got exposed on the bases, we made baserunning mistakes, a couple of defensive miscues, and we just couldn't catch up after a couple of mistakes. And that's going to happen against really good teams. We got our butt kicked this weekend for sure, but overall, good road trip, and looking forward to getting back home.”