Marlins force extra innings, but miss opportunities in walk-off loss to Braves

The Marlins’ nightmarish series against the Braves came to a brutal end on Wednesday at Truist Park.

Miami posted two runs in the ninth to tie the score 3-3 and force extra innings but stranded the bases loaded in the top of the 10th, which set the table for a Michael Harris II 10th-inning walk-off single that helped the Braves to a 4-3 victory.

Miami (6-20) has lost eight of its last 11 games and went 2-5 on the road trip. The Braves (16-6) are 5-1 against Miami this season and have won the season series against the Marlins for nine consecutive years dating back to 2015.

“That’s a tough loss,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “We had chances all night with runners in scoring position. We just couldn’t get that big hit.”

The Marlins scored just four total runs in the series — all on Wednesday — after being shut out in the first two games. The Braves outhit the Marlins 28-18 in the series.

Perhaps the tale of the series for Miami was the top of the ninth and 10th innings on Wednesday.

In the ninth, the Marlins handed Braves closer Raisel Iglesias his first blown save of the season. Luis Arraez, Bryan De La Cruz and Jazz Chisholm Jr. each singled to load the bases with no one out. Josh Bell’s chopper deflected off Braves first baseman Matt Olson’s chest and went into the dugout, allowing Arraez and De La Cruz to tie the score.

Miami had a chance to take the lead with two runners in scoring position and no one out. Iglesias got out of it, though, and preserved the tie. He struck out Sanchez, Chisholm was thrown out at home on a Tim Anderson fielder’s choice and Nick Gordon struck out to end the top of the frame.

In the top of the 10th, the Marlins failed to capitalize on the automatic runner, Gordon. At the beginning of the frame, Gordon was driven to third by an Emmanuel Rivera groundout. On a subsequent Christian Bethancourt grounder, Austin Riley threw out Gordon at home for the second out. Arraez singled and De La Cruz walked to load the bases for Chisholm, who struck out swinging.

Harris II led off the bottom of the 10th with his walk-off single that drove in automatic runner Ronald Acuna Jr.

“I’d like to score runs but we didn’t,” Schumaker said. “They had a game plan. It just wasn’t executed. It’s not lack of preparation. We just didn’t execute and hit the ball on the ground. Riley made a good play and got Gordon at home. Other than that, we hit the ball on the ground a little bit too much with runners in scoring position.”

Marlins starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez got his first start since the October 8, 2020, when he faced the Braves in the NLDS.

Sanchez, who hadn’t pitched more than two full innings this season, went 2 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and he struck out three.

“I felt pretty good,” Sanchez said. “Thanks to God I had the opportunity to go out there and get my first start for the first time in four years. I really felt good out there. I’m just happy I got the opportunity.”

Sanchez got off to an inauspicious start as he allowed two runs in the bottom of the first. The first of those two runs was caused by a balk with Acuna Jr. on third base. Sanchez meant to do a pick-off move to first, but turned around and made his move to second, which is illegal if there isn’t a runner on.

“The game sped up on me there in the first inning,” Sanchez said. “It was one where I was going to pick off to first base and I made a mistake. I just turned toward second.

Braves starting pitching allowed just one run in the entire series — a Jesus Sanchez solo home run on Wednesday. On Monday, Bryce Elder worked 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and Max Fried delivered a three-hit shutout on Tuesday.

Braves starter Reynaldo Lopez gave the Marlins more fits on Wednesday as he went seven innings, allowing one run on three hits and he struck out six batters.

“He’s a converted closer and back-end reliever,” Schumaker said. “We had a tough time picking up his slider, and we knew he had a good fastball.”

Schumaker was pleased with the Marlins’ pitching, which gave up 12 runs in three games to a Braves team with the second-best run differential in MLB (44).

“When you give up three runs and four runs you have a chance to win,” Schumaker said. “Our starting pitching did a really good job this series. The bullpen was outstanding. Up and down, that’s what you expected coming out of spring. I feel really good about the guys who are coming out of the bullpen.”

The Marlins are off on Thursday before starting a four-game series with the National at loan Depot park.