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Nick Markakis carries the load as Atlanta Braves win again

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
Nick Markakis carries the load as Atlanta Braves win again
Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis (22). Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI - Why wait?

That's what Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was thinking with right fielder Nick Markakis. The Braves got off to a horrendous 0-9 start, and Markakis was one of the few Atlanta hitters producing.

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Gonzalez figured it was time to make a change and he moved Markakis from second to first in the batting order, and the Braves are 2-0 since the decision.

On Saturday night, Markakis drove in three runs to lead Atlanta to a 6-4 win over the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

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Markakis, who went 3-for-5, is hitting .341. His RBI double in the fourth keyed Atlanta's tie-breaking three-run rally. Eight of Markakis' past 12 hits have been doubles.

"Typical Nick," Gonzalez said of Markakis, who leads the team with 12 RBIs and has been on base all 11 games.

"He told me, 'Whatever you think is our best chance to win a game, you put me in that spot'. But I told him that, 'If we do this, we are going to leave you up there for a while'. It might be a couple of weeks, three weeks."

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While the Braves (2-9) won their second straight game, Miami (3-6) is 0-4 at home this season.

Bud Norris (1-2) earned the win despite allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

But perhaps the biggest moment in the game came after reliever Jason Grilli entered the game to start the ninth. With two runners on base, Giancarlo Stanton -- who slugged 27 homers in an injury-shortened 2015 season -- came to the plate.

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Grilli struck out Stanton on three straight pitches to end the game. Strike three came on a pitch up and away, and Stanton swung at air.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he didn't think Stanton, who is hitting .229 so far this season after going 1-for-5 with four strikeouts on Saturday, is pressing.

"He's had some good at-bats," Mattingly said. "I think he's close."

Norris, who struck out Stanton twice, didn't reveal any secrets.

"I'm going to have to see him again this season," he said. "I'm going to keep that (information on how he did it) with me."

Tom Koehler (0-2) took the loss, allowing nine hits, two walks and six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Miami's starting pitchers have yet to win a game this season.

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Koehler got in trouble almost immediately. With two outs in the second inning, he failed to get the opposing pitcher, walking Norris after an eight-pitch battle. That loaded the bases and set the stage for Markakis, who dumped a soft, two-run, opposite-field single to shallow left.

Miami took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second. Martin Prado doubled and scored on Justin Bour's single. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a two-run homer.

It was Hechavarria's 12th career homer and his first since August 2, 2015.

Atlanta tied the score 3-3 in the third, again with a soft two-out hit. This time, it was Kelly Johnson's bloop double to center that scored Adonis Garcia.

The Braves knocked Koehler out of the game in the fourth, taking a 6-3 lead. Atlanta got RBI doubles by Markakis and Freddie Freeman, sandwiching a run-scoring single by Gordon Beckham.

Miami closed its deficit to 6-4 with a sixth-inning solo homer by Bour. But Miami could get no closer, and Koehler took the blame.

"The most frustrating part isn't even the runs I allowed," he said. "I take a lot of pride in lasting deep into a game and giving the team a chance to win.

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"But they did a good job of hitting some big pitches and blooping some balls that led to runs."

NOTES: Braves 2B Gordon Beckham injured his hamstring and may be out for at least a few games. ... Marlins LHP Mike Dunn (left forearm inflammation) felt discomfort during a bullpen session and his return has been pushed back indefinitely. ... Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino is off to a 2-0 start with a 2.25 ERA at Triple-A New Orleans. He's a candidate to join Miami's rotation should the big-league club need an extra starter. ... Atlanta, which has dipped from 96 wins to 79 to 67 in the past couple of years, is counting on young prospects to provide a bright future. The best of those is SS Dansby Swanson, 22, who is hitting .333 in nine games at High-A this season. ... Braves RHP Jhoulys Chacin, who starts against Miami on Sunday, is the first pitcher since 1988 to go at least six innings and strike out six or more batters in 69 or fewer pitches, accomplishing that feat in his previous start, against the Washington Nationals.

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