Braves walk off with wild 6-run 9th
ATLANTA -- When Julio Teheran endured a six-run fourth inning and Miguel Rojas recorded his first career multi-homer game within the final few innings against Atlanta's bullpen, there certainly wasn't reason to anticipate the jubilitation the Braves expressed after claiming an improbable 10-9 walk-off win over the Marlins on Sunday afternoon at SunTrust Park.
"There's really not many words I can put into that," Freddie Freeman said. "That's probably one of the most exciting games I've ever played in, been a part of or watched."
Down six runs through five innings and facing a five-run deficit entering their final at-bat, the Braves manufactured a six-run ninth without the benefit of an extra-base hit. Dansby Swanson began the frame with a strikeout and ended it with a two-run, walk-off single that led to him being tackled by his celebratory teammates behind second base.
"I do enjoy those situations," Swanson said. "Who doesn't? If the game is going to be on the line, I want to be up there, and I think everybody else is the same way with themselves. It just shows who we are, and that's something we take pride in."
Swanson's second career game-ending hit capped the Braves' largest ninth-inning comeback in exactly eight years.
Braves manager Brian Snitker was the team's third-base coach on May 20, 2010, when Brooks Conrad capped a seven-run ninth with a walk-off grand slam against the Reds. Consequently, that memorable game that helped Bobby Cox's final team reach the postseason also ended with a 10-9 score.
"You know what, [today's game] is right there with [the Cincinnati comeback]," Snitker said. "That's a great comparison right there."
When Teheran surrendered Lewis Brinson's grand slam in the fourth and Rojas gave the Marlins a 9-4 lead with his ninth-inning homer off A.J. Minter, the Braves were staring at the possibility of heading into this week's key division showdown against the Phillies on a sour note. But the mood was completely altered with this comeback, which was fueled by Freeman's two-out infield single off closer Brad Ziegler to keep the rally going.
"We have fun as a team, and we're good," Nick Markakis said. "We're good and we have fun. … But today was a team win, not just one person doing it but everybody."
As the Braves moved toward maintaining the National League's best record, Markakis cut the deficit to two runs by scoring Freeman with a single. Suddenly, the confident Braves dugout began anticipating what might be occurring. The confidence grew as Tayron Guerrero walked Tyler Flowers and then surrendered a pinch-hit RBI single to Kurt Suzuki, who laced a 98.8 mph heater to left field.
"We said if he walks [Flowers] right here we're going to win this game," Freeman said. "It just shows the belief and pedigree in this team that we have this much belief in each other. It's fun to be a part of. When you have everybody bought in to play like that, it's truly amazing what can happen."
The Braves haven't been strangers to late elation as they have tallied an MLB-high 43 last at-bat wins since Snitker became the club's manager on May 16, 2016. But there haven't been too many thrills like the one created when Swanson fouled consecutive 99-mph heaters before he connected on Guerrero's elevated 96.6-mph fastball and watched it sail toward left field to end one of the most improbable comebacks any of the Braves have ever experienced.
"No one else you want in that situation," Freeman said. "It feels like he's made for that situation. We got everything to him and he came through. It was just unbelievable at-bats all the way through that whole inning."
Swanson came off the disabled list on Saturday and was hitless before once again proving that scouts weren't wrong when they evaluated him during his playing days at Vanderbilt University and said he possessed the clutch gene.
"I just want to put the barrel on it," Swanson said. "That's kind of what I do every at-bat. You try not to change your plan based on the situation and everything. You just do what you do and do it better than they do."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Signs of life: Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen held the Braves hitless through the first three innings and scoreless until Freeman and Markakis notched consecutive RBI singles in the sixth. Ronald Acuna Jr. added a two-run single in the seventh against Drew Steckenrider and contributed to the ninth-inning rally with a sacrifice fly.
"I almost expect them to do it," Snitker said. "That's why it's down six in the bottom of the fifth and I felt good. I really did. I thought these guys had a lot of time to go to work here, but then you get a little bit farther away, but they never stop. It's a great win for these guys."
Painful fourth: Teheran held the Marlins hitless through the first three innings before surrendering five hits within a span of six plate appearances to begin the fourth. Justin Bour fueled the eruption by opening the frame with a long drive that resulted in a triple when Ender Inciarte collided with the center-field wall and briefly remained on the ground. Inciarte exited after the sixth inning, but he will likely play in Monday night's series opener in Philadelphia.
"I think [Ender] is just sore," Snitker said. "I mean, he did a face-plant into that thing. I think it's just sore. I don't think he did anything. [It's just] body soreness because he hit that wall really hard. It's good to get him out of there and give him a break and not push it anymore."
The Braves scored five of their ninth-inning runs with two outs and now have an MLB-best 119 two-out runs. No other team entered Sunday with more than 100 such runs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After Teheran endured the rough fourth inning, Brian Anderson opened the fifth with a long drive that Acuna snared toward the left-field corner. Acuna ran 84 feet for the ball that had a 63 percent catch probability. It marked the second three-star catch for the 20-year-old phenom, who has also tallied two four-star catches (catch probability 26-50 percent) -- MLB's second-highest total entering Sunday.
HE SAID IT
"I credit being able to relax a lot in those situations to playing high school basketball because you're constantly in those pressure situations that are considered tough to handle. Every time I can get in those situations, I'm happy to do so." -- Swanson
The top two teams in the NL East face off at 7:10 p.m. ET on Monday as the Braves travel to Citizens Bank Park for a series with the Phillies. Both starting pitchers are coming off of season-high strikeout performances in their last starts. Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz tallied 10 strikeouts on Tuesday against the Cubs, while Phillies righty Nick Pivetta struck out a career-high 11 batters in his last start against the Orioles on Wednesday. The Braves took two out of three games in their trip to Philly in late April.