In what became a bizarre pitchers’ duel, Drew Smyly was firing on all cylinders as he picked up his fourth straight win in the Braves' hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Marlins on Friday night at Truist Park.
“It was just a great team win to win the game 1-0," Smyly said. "Their bullpen came in and did a tremendous job. And then our bullpen came in after me and did a tremendous job. So it was just a great pitching performance all around."
Smyly came out of the gate strong with a three-pitch strikeout of Marlins star Jazz Chisholm Jr. for his first of seven on the night. With Friday’s win, Smyly has won four straight starts for the first time in his career. In Smyly’s last start against Miami on June 13, he celebrated his 32nd birthday by tossing five innings with six strikeouts in a win.
“It's really good. The stuff is live, it's just good,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “I just want him to stay on that roll, because it's been really sharp and crisp and he's driving his fastball. Curveball was really good tonight too. Hopefully he keeps it up.”
Through the first five innings, Smyly was clearly in a groove and retired six straight batters on two occasions. He ran into trouble in the top of the sixth when he allowed a single to Garrett Cooper for the Marlins' third hit of the game. Smyly was replaced by Luke Jackson immediately following Cooper's hit, and finished allowing three hits and two walks through 5 2/3 innings.
“The mechanics have been pretty good lately. Just trying to repeat it and stay as consistent as possible,” said Smyly. “I always want to stay in the game, but Luke’s been lockdown all year. That was probably the right call to go to him and get the out. Our bullpen did a phenomenal job, and we won the game, 1-0. Everyone did their part tonight.”
Throughout the season, Smyly has been known to give up home runs -- of the 42 runs he has allowed, 24 have come via the long ball. However, over his four-game winning streak, he has not allowed any homers. Over this span, Smyly has a 1.21 ERA through 22 1/3 IP dating back to his June 13 matchup against the Marlins. The Braves have won each of his last five outings and have gone 6-0 this year in Smyly’s starts when he does not allow a home run.
It became clear Friday's matchup would not be your average pitchers' duel when the opposing starter never made his second pitch of the game. Whenever Miami faces Atlanta, there is always some tension, but after Ronald Acuña Jr. was hit on Pablo López's first pitch, Snitker had seen enough. Following heated trips to the mound from Snitker and Marlins manager Don Mattingly, López, Mattingly and Miami pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. were ejected in the first inning.
“Kind of upset, it's the third time they've hit him with the first pitch of the game. I didn't know what was going to happen. I've watched it too much,” said Snitker.
This was the fifth time that Acuña has been hit by the Marlins in his 52 games against the club, with three of those coming in the first inning. However, following the HBP, the Braves rallied around their All-Star and secured the lone and decisive run of the game on a sacrifice fly from Ozzie Albies, scoring Acuña.
“I don't know, to be honest, just because of how many times it happened, but whether it was or it wasn't, it doesn't matter to me,” said Acuña on whether he thinks the HBP was intentional. “My primary and only focus is the team won.”
In Friday’s matchup, the Braves struggled from the plate and ended with only two hits thanks to singles from Freddie Freeman and Albies. The last time the Braves secured a win with just two hits came on June 7, 2011, when they beat the Marlins in another 1-0 thriller. Despite their lack of offense, the Braves brought home their third 1-0 victory of the season.
“Yeah, everyone's pitching great. We've had confidence in ourselves all season,” said Smyly. “You're gonna have a bad game here and there. But, I think all of us believe in each other that every time we take the ball, whoever's on the mound is going to give the team a chance to win and put out a good outing.”
Following Smyly’s impressive outing, Atlanta’s bullpen came together to secure the shutout. Jackson, Shane Greene, A.J. Minter, Chris Martin, and Will Smith combined to give the Braves their ninth shutout of the season.
Since June 17, Atlanta has six shutouts, and they trail only the Giants for most in the Majors in 2021. Over this recent stretch, Atlanta's pitching staff has combined for the lowest ERA in the Majors at 2.80.