Inciarte homers twice in Braves’ streak-ending win against Marlins
MIAMI – Power to the stadium lights went out briefly Wednesday night at Marlins Park, but the power in Giancarlo Stanton’s bat did not. Fortunately for the Braves, the behemoth Miami slugger’s two-homer night was matched by an unlikely source, Ender Inciarte.
After Inciarte’s second homer of the night tied the score in the eighth inning, catcher Tyler Flowers’ tw0-out RBI single up the middle in the ninth inning scored Brandon Phillips to lift the Braves to a 5-4 win that snapped a five-game losing skid. Phillips had drawn a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch to Flowers.
“It was good to get B.P. to second, then try to get a good pitch to hit,” Flowers said, “and luckily it went through there.”
The Braves went 2-6 on a season-opening trip, winning once against the Mets before getting swept in three games at frigid Pittsburgh and splitting a two-game series at Marlins Park. Now they’ll have a day off before their highly anticipated home opener at new SunTrust Park on Friday night.
“Hopefully this is what’s going to get us going,” Inciarte said after the second two-homer game of his career. “Everybody knows we have a really good team. Everybody here can hit, we can score runs. If we can stay together pitching and offensively, we’re going to win a lot of games. I know from now on we’re going to start winning some games.”
Inciarte, who entered batting .152 with one extra-base hit and one RBI, came through with two homers and three RBIs for a team that needed it desperately.
“It’s not frustrating to start like this, it’s frustrating when you cannot help the team win,” Inciarte said. “You want to win; that’s all that matters. When you’re losing games and you’re also struggling, it makes it a little frustrating. Today I had a good mindset and came really positive. Even after my first at-bat a couple of guys said, ‘You’re going to get hot.’ I was like, I’m locked in. And I was 0-for-1. I said I’m locked in, just to try and be positive.
“I ended up having a great day, I feel, just because I came with the right attitude.”
The Gold Glove center fielder and leadoff man’s two homers were one shy of his season in 2016, Inciarte’s first year with the Braves. He gave them a lead with a two-run homer in the third inning and brought them back with a tying solo homer in the eighth, the second two-homer game of his career to go with one he hit against the Padres in September 2105.
After Braves starter Jaime Garcia gave up seven hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks in five innings, four relievers combined for four hitless innings with no walks and five stirkeouts, the only runner to reach base doing so on Arodys Vizcaino’s wild-pitch third strike to Marcell Ozuna to start the eighth inning. “Viz” then induced a double-play grounder.
Eric O’Flaherty, Jose Ramirez and closer Jim Johnson pitched a perfect inning apiece, Johnson recording his first save.
“The bullpen did an unbelievable job,” Garcia said. “They came in and got the job done and picked me up. Every time I don’t go more than six or seven innings, for me I didn’t get the job done. And they picked me up. They played great defense behind me, Ender was great hitting and the bullpen was awesome. We won the game and hopefully now we can get on a good roll here and continue to play good baseball.”
Stanton hit a pair of two-run homers off Garcia to erase a pair of Braves leads, but Inciarte’s eighth-inning homer got Garcia off the hook for what would have been the veteran left-hander’s seventh consecutive loss and second for the Braves. He got no decision
The unearned run charged to Garcia resulted from a fielding error by shortstop Dansby Swanson, who booted Christian Yelich’s grounder with one out in the fifth inning immediately before Stanton’s second homer.
Garcia got no decision and is 0-6 with 7.60 ERA in eight starts going back to Aug. 23 with the Cardinals, the longest losing streak of his career. He’s 0-2 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts against the Marlins since the beginning of the 2016 season.
“The guys threw well,” Flowers said. “Jaime threw well, just a couple of mistakes. Other than that I thought he threw the ball pretty well — changed speeds, in and out, he was pretty effective other than to Stanton.”
The Braves have handled Stanton far better than most teams, holding him to a .203 career average with 13 home runs, 54 walks and 108 strikeouts 316 at-bats before Wednesday. But against the former Cardinal Garcia, Stanton improved to 7-for-10 with three homers, four walks and six RBIs.
“He’s a dangerous hitter, man,” Garcia said, then sighed. “I’m not going to take anything away from him, but I didn’t execute pitches the way I should execute. I’ve just got to do a better job when I get in situations like that.”
Play was halted for 27 minutes with two out in the Braves’ fourth inning after the stadium lights flickered and some went out, apparently the result of a direct lightning strike on a nearby power transformer.
Inciarte broke a scoreless tie with his two-run homer in the third inning, but Stanton answered with a two-run, two-out homer in the bottom of the inning, a towering shot that barely cleared the fence after it looked as if it might hit a roof.
The Braves reclaimed the lead when Freeman led off the fourth inning with a home run off Marlins starter Tim Koehler. It was the third homer and fifth extra-base hit for Freeman, who got some help from Inciarte picking up offensive slack Wednesday while usual cleanup hitter Matt Kemp (strained hamstring) is on the 10-day disabled list.
Stanton put the Marlins back in front, 4-3, with his mammoth two-run shot in the fifth, and the Braves looked like they would go quietly until Inciarte lined a homer over the right-field fence in the eighth off reliever Junichi Tazawa. It was Ender’s Game, indeed.