MIAMI -- After two sharp hits from Ronald Acuna Jr. (Sabanero Soy) and a strong performance from Anibal Sanchez (Alejo) early on Saturday night, the Braves were poised to bounce back from Friday night's loss to the Marlins in emphatic fashion.Instead, Atlanta's bats grew ice cold, leading to a second
MIAMI -- After two sharp hits from Ronald Acuna Jr. (Sabanero Soy) and a strong performance from Anibal Sanchez (Alejo) early on Saturday night, the Braves were poised to bounce back from Friday night's loss to the Marlins in emphatic fashion.
Instead, Atlanta's bats grew ice cold, leading to a second consecutive defeat, 3-1, at Marlins Park as Players' Weekend continued. Dansby Swanson (Dans) put the Braves on the board with a solo home run in the ninth -- snapping a stretch of 21 consecutive scoreless innings -- but it was simply too little, too late.
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"The last couple of games, we just haven't been able to string anything together," Swanson said. "You need to give a little credit where credit is due; they've thrown the ball well lately, with [Wei-Yin] Chen today and [Dan] Straily yesterday."
Despite the defeat, the Braves kept a three-game cushion in the National League East with the Phillies' loss to the Blue Jays.
Sanchez was dominant through his first five frames, but he stumbled in the sixth.
After the veteran right-hander surrendered a leadoff triple to Rafael Ortega -- just the Marlins' third hit of the evening -- J.T. Realmuto (Real) drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly.
Sanchez's night was solid, allowing just four hits and one run, but similar to Mike Foltynewicz (Folty) on Friday, the right-hander received no run support.
Chad Sobotka came on in relief of Sanchez and got the final out of the sixth inning. But Sobotka surrendered rookie Brian Anderson's (Andy) pinch-hit, two-run homer that gave Miami a 3-0 lead.
Atlanta scattered nine hits but had no answers for Miami starter Chen (Weigh-In).
"I thought he was able to command the ball pretty well," Swanson said of Chen. "A lot of the swings we had were either a little late or just a little bit off time. But like I said, we need to give him credit for that. He changed pitches and eye level and threw the ball really well. Didn't allow us to put anything together against him."
The Braves struck out 10 times against Chen. Braves manager Brian Snitker explained he had game planned -- from a managerial standpoint -- by speaking with Chen's former Orioles teammate Nick Markakis (TTT) about the southpaw.
"Nick was talking to me before the game about when [Chen] was in Baltimore. [Tonight] was probably as good as it gets. That's as good as he's thrown against us, I know that," Snitker said.
Sunday's series finale with the Marlins will mark the club's 22nd game in 20 days. Swanson admitted that he and his teammates are looking forward to Monday's off-day, but now isn't the time to lose focus of the task at hand -- finishing the season strong.
"Obviously, we want to win every day," Swanson said. "I think the easiest way to break it down is that we want to win each series. If we come out here and win tomorrow, then that means we even the series up, which is a big thing, especially to do it on the road. We take it day by day, and I think that's what has led us to this point now and gotten us here at this point in the season. We just need to continue with that same mindset and flush today and be ready for tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In a scoreless game, Atlanta had its best chance to push several runs across in the sixth.
A leadoff single to right from Kurt Suzuki (Kuz) set the tone for the inning. With one out, Adam Duvall (Duvy) reached on a fielder's choice and Swanson followed with a single. With two outs and two runners on, the pitcher's spot was due up and Snitker chose not to pinch-hit for Sanchez. Sobotka had been warming up in the bullpen.
"I figured, right there, we've got the top of the order coming up. I was looking to get two more innings out of him, not one," Snitker said. "He was throwing so good, I rolled the dice on the rest of our offense."
Snitker's risk did not pay off. Sanchez, who is hitless in 30 at-bats this season, struck out on three pitches and squandered the opportunity.
SANCHEZ EXITS WITH DISCOMFORT
As Sanchez exited in the sixth inning, he was accompanied by the team's athletic trainer. The Braves announced the right-hander left with right hamstring tightness and is day to day.
Snitker recalled Sanchez yelling over to him, indicating he had aggravated an injury that has been nagging him all season.
"I think he did it while he was out there pitching. He yelled to me and said, 'There's something wrong,'" Snitker said. "He didn't pop it, didn't pull it, it was more I think probably a dehydration thing. More tight than anything."
Sanchez, on whether or not dehydration played a role, said he wasn't sure. He was just trying his best to finish his outing.
"In the last hitters, I started thinking I can push my body and that's why I lost my command," Sanchez said. "I tried to figure it out. I just don't feel that bad in the moment, but I thought I could push my body."
Acuna's single in the first (98.8-mph exit velocity) extended the rookie's hitting streak against Miami to eight games. Over the course of this stretch, Acuna is hitting .471 (16-for-34).
As for his double (105.5-mph exit velocity) in the third, extra-base hits are pretty much second nature for the 20-year-old phenom. In August, 18 of Acuna's 32 hits have gone for extra bases. He is batting .340 this month.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With Marlins CEO Derek Jeter perched up in his suite behind home plate, Swanson decided to give his best imitation of the former shortstop's signature play -- the jump throw.
Leading off the fourth inning, Starlin Castro (All Starlin) smacked a ground ball into the hole to Swanson's right. He pounced on the ball, leaped and fired across the diamond, just in time to rob Castro of a hit.
"That play in the hole was something else," Snitker said. "It's hard enough to catch that ball. It takes unbelievable concentration just to play it where it was."
HE SAID IT
"He's made some adjustments on the last homestand. It's been good stuff. He's been swinging the bat really good. Let's hope it continues because he's playing just about as good as you can play right now, on both sides of the ball. He's having some really good at-bats and his defense has been phenomenal."
-- Snitker, on Swanson
In the finale of the Braves' four-game series in Miami, Kevin Gausman (Gausy) takes the ball at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Since being acquired from Baltimore, Gausman is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts. The right-hander will toe the rubber against Miami rookie Pablo Lopez (Pache) to conclude Players' Weekend.
Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.