MIAMI -- In danger of dropping their third straight to the Marlins, newly acquired Kevin Gausman (Gausy) put the Braves on his back Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park and pitched a gem.
With yet another sparkling outing under his belt since swapping uniforms at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, Gausman has not only proven he's a threat at the top of this club's rotation, but that he's a stopper. When the Braves are in dire need of a win down the stretch, it appears they found their guy to go out and get the job done.
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Tyler Flowers (MMBB) drove in the Braves' first run of the game -- an RBI single in the sixth to score Nick Markakis (TTT). The bullpen was effectively spotless, tossing four shutout frames to hold on for the 4-0, two-hitter, win.
Gausman was exceptional. In fact, he was nearly perfect over five innings.
In the third, after retiring the first eight Marlins in order, opposing pitcher Pablo Lopez (Pache) snuck a base knock through the middle for Miami's first baserunner. John Holaday (Holly) would later work a walk off Gausman in the fifth -- the only other Marlin to reach base off the right-hander.
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For Gausman, it was his fastball that catalyzed his stellar performance.
"I had pretty good fastball command from the get go," he said. "When I'm able to throw the ball up when I want to and down when I need to, I can be pretty tough on hitters."
His backstop, Flowers, agreed.
"I think we realized pretty quickly in his first outing [with the Braves] just how well his fastball seems to play up," Flowers explained. "And even in that outing, he didn't have any of his offspeed going, and he ended up with a decent outing. You could see the potential right away. He's a lot of fun to catch, I know that."
In the sixth, Braves manager Brian Snitker pinch-hit Rio Ruiz for Gausman in an attempt to break the game open offensively. Ruiz walked and kept the inning in motion, which loaded the bases, only to have Ronald Acuna Jr. (Sabanero Soy) fly out to the warning track in right. Snitker said the decision to take out his starter was a tough one -- he thought Gausman was destined for a complete game.
"It looked like he had everything going," Snitker said. "It's a shame we didn't score him any runs because it looked like he probably would have finished the game. He was really good -- he's been really good ever since we got him."
Said Gausman on being taken out after just five innings: "Obviously I'm a competitive person and I want to stay out there. But the last couple games, with the guys struggling to push across some runs, it was smart. It worked out."
Since being acquired from the Orioles, Gausman has been lights out, and Sunday afternoon was no exception. The right-hander's final line included five scoreless frames and five strikeouts. He threw 80 pitches -- 54 for strikes. Gausman is now 4-1 in five starts with the Braves, allowing just six runs in 32 innings. With Gausman throwing the ball well, alongside consistent quality outings from the rest of the club's starting staff, Atlanta is poised to take the month of September by storm.
"I can't say enough. He's exceeded expectations," said Snitker, on Gausman's short stint with the club. "He's fit right in in the clubhouse and on the field. He's been awesome to have here."
Instead of losing their four-game set with Miami, Sunday's hard-fought win clinched a series split and a 5-2 road trip. Not to mention the fact that it ensures the club remained three games ahead of the Phillies -- who were also victorious on Sunday -- in the National League East standings.
As for whether or not Snitker and his club are checking periodically on the standings, the skipper said contention has been a long time coming.
"We've been waiting for four years for this -- check the out of town [scores]. So that's OK, it's nice," he said.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
While holding onto a one-run lead in the eighth, the Braves broke the game open with some much needed insurance runs. With runners on first and second and no one out, a perfectly placed bunt from Dansby Swanson (Dans) set the inning in motion.
"Trying to get somebody closer to home where we can make a productive out and score a run. It was a great bunt," Snitker said.
Next, with the bases loaded and one out, the ever-dangerous Acuna stepped in -- and while it certainly was not the hardest or farthest hit ball he's hit this season, it got the job done.
Acuna chopped a 1-0 cutter from Drew Rucinski (Rusinski) to the right side. Derek Dietrich (Dietz) ranged to his right to field the ball, but his attempt to get the force at home plate came up way short, bouncing over Holaday.
Charlie Culberson (Culby) and Flowers both came around to score. With two outs, Ender Inciarte (Game Ender) gave the Braves their fourth and final run -- a sacrifice fly to left, deep enough to score Ozzie Albies (Puchi), who evaded Holaday's tag with an acrobatic head-first slide.
Atlanta dominated the season series against Miami, going 14-5 in 2018. Interestingly enough, this series marked the fewest combined runs by the Marlins and an opposing team in a four-game series. Atlanta and Miami totaled a mere 14 runs -- according to Elias Sports Bureau. The previous low was 15, from Sept. 13-15, 2013, against the Mets in New York.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Most know Acuna for his bat. Sunday, however, he showed he can flash the leather as well. In the sixth, on a sinking line drive off the bat of Rafael Ortega, Acuna went into a silky smooth slide, snagging the ball and popping back up, ready to throw.
Then, in the seventh, on a blooper off the bat of Starlin Castro (All Starlin), Acuna went into a dive, laying out to make the grab just inches off the ground. He rolled over twice, continuing his momentum, before standing up and celebrating by shimmying a bit and laughing with Inciarte.
"He's been doing great," Inciarte said, admiring the 20-year-old's talent both with his glove and his bat. "He can move and get great jumps on balls, and he was able to make unbelievable catches today to help us from keeping the other team from scoring."
HE SAID IT
"It's a lot of baseball … Everybody is tired in baseball this time of year. We've been doing this since February. You're mentally tired, you're physically tired, it's what we do. It's how you live. Needless to say, tomorrow will be welcome. Wake up at home, that'll be nice." -- Snitker, on playing 22 games in a 20-day stretch
After a much needed day off on Monday, the Braves hand the ball to Julio Teheran, kicking off a quick, two-game set with Tampa Bay at 7:35 p.m. ET Tuesday at SunTrust Park. The right-hander has faced the Rays only once in his career -- on May 9, he went six scoreless innings to earn the victory. The Rays will counter with Ryne Stanek.