MIAMI — The game had all the earmarks of low-stakes September baseball, with a small crowd and two spot starters in a matchup of first- and last-place teams.
Bring on Freddy Garcia.
The well-traveled 36-year-old right-hander earned his second NL victory since 2007, and his first since he joined the Atlanta Braves in August, pitching six innings to help beat Miami 6-1 Thursday.
“Freddy wore the MVP pants today,” teammate Freddie Freeman said. “What he did was pretty awesome.”
Freeman had three hits on his 24th birthday, including his 20th home run. Chris Johnson also had three hits to raise his average to .330.
Garcia (1-1) allowed five hits and one run. What was working for him?
“Everything,” he said with a smile.
“He’s a veteran guy,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He knows how to maneuver himself through a major-league lineup – put a little on it, take a little off and never give you the same look.”
Garcia made his first start for the NL East leaders in place of rookie left-hander Alex Wood, whose turn was skipped to give him a breather. A two-time AL All-Star, Garcia lowered his ERA since joining the Braves to 1.32 in 13 2-3 innings.
He could be valuable in October, when the games become much more important.
“Hopefully I’ll continue to pitch the way I’ve been pitching,” he said. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready for.”
Three relievers completed a seven-hitter. Jordan Walden, who had been sidelined by a groin injury, pitched a scoreless seventh in his first appearance since Aug. 21.
“We wanted to give him an inning and make sure he’s OK,” Gonzalez said. “That’s a big piece we haven’t had. That will take a little burden off some of the other guys we have been using a lot.”
There were no testy encounters less than 24 hours after a bench-clearing confrontation during the Braves’ victory Wednesday night.
The crowd of 15,274 was the Marlins’ smallest at home since July 1. They’re last in the NL in attendance.
Brian Flynn (0-1), making his second major-league start, walked six and allowed six runs in four innings.
“After an emotional night last night, we needed somebody to go out there, really pound the strike zone and put up some zeros,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said. “And that just didn’t happen.”
Flynn was given the start in place of Nathan Eovaldi, who was scratched because of a stiff back. Eovaldi won’t pitch until Monday at the earliest.
The Marlins went 2-5 on their homestand. They have the NL’s worst record and have lost 27 of their past 38 games.
Evan Gattis and Johnson hit consecutive two-run doubles in the third after Flynn walked the bases loaded to start the inning. Freeman’s two-out, two-run homer in the fourth made it 6-1.
Freeman reached the 20-homer milestone for the third year in a row, leaving him 11 seasons behind former teammate Chipper Jones’ 14-year streak.
“We always jab at each other,” Freeman said. “Three down, 11 more to go. I guess I can shoot him a text message, and that’s another one down. But I’ve got a long ways to go.”
Donovan Solano had a two-out RBI single in the third to score Miami’s run.
Notes: Marlins LHP Brad Hand will make his first start of the year Friday when the Marlins open an 11-game trip against the Mets. RHP Henderson Alvarez and RHP Jacob Turner will start for Miami in a doubleheader Saturday. ... Atlanta won the season series 13-6. ... In the past three games, the Braves have hit .158 (6 for 38) with runners in scoring position. ... Solano improved his average with runners in scoring position to .371.