MIAMI -- The knee-jerk reaction to this one would be to keep piling it on the bullpen. After eight mostly stellar innings from Nathan Eovaldi, closer Steve Cishek in a 2-2 game served up a two-run homer to Evan Gattis in the ninth.
That was the difference Sunday afternoon in the Braves' series-sweeping, 4-2 victory at Marlins Park. The two teams began the weekend tied atop the National League East standings before the Braves showed just how far the Marlins have to go.
The relief staff with a 6.43 ERA and a .321 (9-for-28) opponents' batting average logged seven rough innings in the series. Cishek caught too much of the plate on a 2-0 fastball to Gattis, who hit it off the base of the home run sculpture in center. Cishek had faced 87 batters this season without allowing a long ball before Gattis tagged him.
"I just fell behind with two sliders to a dead-red fastball hitter," said Cishek, who last served up a homer to John Mayberry at Citizens Bank Park on June 4, 2013. "I'm just trying to stick that down and away and it came right back over. He's a good fastball hitter and I gave him the pitch he could drive out, so hat's off to him."
Rather than pitching in a tie game, Cishek should have been trying to preserve a one-run lead if not for more ramshackle defense. After Marcell Ozuna spotted Eovaldi a two-run lead in the second with his 10th homer, the Braves came right back with a little help.
Eovaldi gave up back-to-back singles to seven- and eight-hole hitters Tommy La Stella and Andrelton Simmons, and later watched the tying run score on what should have been an inning ending double play. With runners at the corners, Derek Dietrich fielded a B.J. Upton grounder up the middle. He stepped on second for the force and bounced an off-balance throw to first that Garrett Jones could not pick.
That RBI-fielder's choice produced the second and final run Eovaldi would allow during his six-hit, no-walk, four-strikeout effort.
"That play has got to be made," said manager Mike Redmond, who watch his team commit three errors in the series and continue its two-month long run of shaky defense. "Instead of a 2-1 game it's 2-2 . . . It's definitely a big concern as far as our defense being sloppy at times. We can't make mistakes defensively. We can't give especially teams like the Braves extra outs, which we did.
"It's something we have to improve. If it comes to playing guys who can play defense and pick up the ball and throw it, that's what we'll have to do."
Eovaldi was the first Marlins' starter to complete eight since Tom Koehler on May 7. It couldn't have come at a better time considering the Marlins' recent bullpen woes.
"It was a tough series," Redmond said. "We didn't play our best. We didn't play great defense. We didn't run the bases well. There are a lot of areas we need to get better. It just shows you what we need to do to take that next step. We need to play better, but we know we can play with these guys and everybody in that clubhouse believes that."
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