MIAMI — Shae Simmons didn’t think he would make his major league debut in a close game.
But the 23-year old reliever for the Atlanta Braves was ready nonetheless.
Simmons struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the eighth inning in a one-run game as the Braves went on to beat the Miami Marlins 9-5 on Saturday.
“I wasn’t really thinking,” Simmons said. “I thought I was done for the day and I’d just come tomorrow, but luckily I went in and threw strikes.”
Veteran catcher Gerald Laird helped Simmons settle in with the Braves leading 6-5 with runners on first and second.
“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about calling your game. Let me call the game, just throw it where I call it,’” Laird said. “And he did a good job of that.”
Simmons was one of six Braves relievers used to help Ervin Santana (5-2) win his first game since May 10 against the Cubs.
“I drank a whole bottle of coffee because I thought I felt like I was about to doze off out there (in the bullpen),” Simmons said. “Then all of the guys just started talking and said to treat it like any other day.”
Santana (5-2) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
Craig Kimbrel got the last two outs for his 15th save of the season, which tied him with John Smoltz for the most saves in franchise history with 154.
“I know if John would have done it his whole career he would have had a lot more,” Kimbrel said. “It is nice to say I’m a part of something like that, but then again I’ve had a lot of opportunities and played on some good ball teams in the first three or four years. If it weren’t for that case, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about this right now.”
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman each drove in a pair of runs to lead the Braves offense, which pounded out 12 hits.
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman each drove in a pair of runs to lead the Braves offense, which pounded out 12 hits. Derek Dietrich and Casey McGehee each drove in two runs and Christian Yelich had three hits for the Marlins as starter Jacob Turner (1-3) took the loss allowing five runs in five innings.
Six Miami pitchers combined to walk nine batters and three errors led to two unearned runs.
“We’re walking way too many guys and then you cap that off with sloppy defense,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We’re going up against the best teams in baseball. To go out there and compete we have to play better baseball.”
Miami bench coach Rob Leary was ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning by home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott for arguing balls and strikes during an at-bat by Giancarlo Stanton with David Carpenter on the mound.
“Everybody was yelling in there,” Redmond said. “They just picked Rob, the poor guy. I have to give him some money.”
Immediately after the ejection Stanton singled and McGehee drove him home with a double to pull Miami within 6-4.
Two batters later Marcell Ozuna brought the Marlins within a run with a base hit. Carpenter exited without recording an out in the four batters he faced.
Simmons struck out slumping Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the inning with runners on first and second. Saltalamacchia is 1 for his last 21.
“The kid did a nice job,” Gonzalez said of Simmons.
The Braves scored three runs in the ninth off A.J. Ramos on Laird’s RBI single, Ramiro Pena’s squeeze bunt, and B.J. Upton’s bases loaded walk.
“I just didn’t find the zone, plain and simple,” Ramos said. “Whenever I missed, it was too big of a miss.”
Kimbrel came on in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on and the game appeared to be over on a ground ball by Stanton, but Pena dropped a routine throw to second on a fielder’s choice, which loaded the bases for Miami.
Kimbrel calmly retired McGehee to end the game.
“We played a good ball game today, we hit the ball when we needed to and we pitched when we needed to,” Kimbrel said.