ATLANTA - Both teams sensed this was an October preview, a mini-drama that unfolded without an autumn nip in the air.
If that's true, then the games these two teams play in eight weeks should be classics.
Certainly Monday night's game had everything anyone would want in a playoff game. It had intensity, it had pitching and it had a great finish.
It ended with a love fest halfway between the field and the home dugout.
Continuing to prove his value off the bench, pinch hitter Danny Bautista was mobbed by his teammates after delivering a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending Ryan Klesko across the plate with the winning run as the Braves earned a split of the series with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Marlins before a sellout crowd of 47,870 fans at Turner Field.
"If you asked me if I'd rather have won yesterday and lost today or lost yesterday and won today, I would say end with a win," Klesko said. "It was a very big win. We definitely didn't want to start battling back and forth with the Marlins."
The victory restored Atlanta's 5 1/2 game lead in the NL East and left the second-place Marlins feeling frustrated after outplaying the Braves in the series.
Asked if the loss was devastating, Florida starter Kevin Brown responded, "At the end of the season I'll let you know."
The win went to Mark Wohlers (4-4), who worked a perfect ninth in relief of Greg Maddux.
Matched together for the second time in 10 days, Maddux and Brown offered splendid performances, but walked away with no-decisions, just as they did in Miami.
One day after signing a contract that made him the game's highest-paid player, Maddux offered his customary dominance, limiting the Marlins to five hits and one run in eight innings.
His only mistake was a pitch to rookie second baseman Craig Counsell in the third inning. Counsell tripled up the right-center field gap and Devon White's broken-bat single off Mark Lemke's glove scored him with the game's first run.
The Braves tied the game in the sixth when Michael Tucker and Chipper Jones opened with singles and one out later Klesko was intentionally walked, loading the bases for Lemke. He topped a grounder 30 feet up the first base line, but Brown's hurried throw home pulled Johnson off the plate as Tucker slid across with the tying run.
"It wasn't a textbook win," Jones said. "In a lot of ways they gave it to us."
The Braves felt fortunate to come away with a victory after collecting just four singles and eight walks against Brown and a pair of relievers.
But after failing to execute the fundamentals throughout the series, the Braves suddenly did everything right in the ninth inning. Klesko, whose impatience at the plate in the first inning cost the Braves a great chance against Brown, drew a walk from reliever Felix Heredia (4-2). Lemke bunted him along, then Javy Lopez accepted an intentional walk.
Jay Powell came on to face pinch hitter Tony Graffanino and issued the final walk of the game to load the bases. That brought Bautista out of the dugout and he lifted Powell's first pitch toward right fielder Gary Sheffield.
"When I first hit it I didn't think Ryan could score the run," Bautista said. "Then when I got to first and saw the ball keep going back, I said, `Maybe he has a chance.' "
Sheffield's throw sailed over catcher Charles Johnson's head and the Braves had their biggest win of the season.
"I don't think we could have afforded to have lost this game," Jones said. "If we face them in the postseason, this is one of the ways we had to get the edge back. The last impression is the one that's remembered."
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us