ATLANTA -- Marcell Ozuna swung and missed at a ninth-inning pitch he couldn't hit with a boat oar. Craig Kimbrel got the strikeout, but the Marlins got the go-ahead run on base.
A second Kimbrel wild pitch put Ozuna in scoring position, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia did the rest. He lined a 2-2 offering into center as part of a three-hit effort, sending the Marlins to a four-game series-clinching 3-2 win over the Braves at Turner Field on Thursday.
It took six tries, but Henderson Alvarez finally earned his first victory over the Braves after tossing eight nearly mistake-free innings. His lone miscue was a first-pitch fastball Chris Johnson tagged for a two-run homer in the second.
Braves starter Aaron Harang faced one over the minimum through four innings before the Marlins knotted the game at two. A Saltalamacchia double, the first of two on the night, put runners on second and third with no out. Adeiny Hechavarria dumped a one-out Harang offering into right for an RBI-single and Christian Yelich beat out what had the makings of an inning-ending double play grounder to second for the RBI-fielder's choice.
The Braves completed two double plays behind Harang, contributing to the right-hander making it through seven innings without allowing more than the two runs. Through his first three 2014 starts against the Marlins, Harang gave up 12 runs on 21 hits in 17 1.3 innings (6.23 ERA). Monday, he was considerably stingier, holding the Marlins to one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
With the exception of Mike Minor, who on Tuesday allowed six runs on 10 hits over three innings, the Braves got outstanding starting pitching. Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana and Harang combined to allow four runs on 15 hits and 25 strikeouts over 21 1/3 innings for a 1.69 ERA.
Alvarez wasn't bad either in completing more than six innings for the first time in six career starts against the Braves. Though Alvarez has yet to beat the Braves, he lowered his lifetime ERA against them from 6.67 to 5.66 in what easily was his best start against them. Dating back to July 4, 2013 -- the first time Alvarez faced them -- he had never completed more than six innings in a start versus Atlanta.
After a 23-pitch fifth during which Alvarez issued his lone walk, he totaled 10, 12, and eight offerings in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, respectively. He recorded outs on nine of the last 10 batters he faced before departing with 101 pitches.
Marlins' starters have completed eight or more innings eight times in 2014. Alvarez has authored half of those performances.
Including Johnson's blast, two of the eight homers Alvarez has allowed have come on the first pitch. Entering the game, opponents were hitting .328 (21-for-64) and slugging .500 when putting the first pitch in play off Alvarez.
Johnson after the homer run is a .450 hitter (18-for-40) with an on-base plus slugging percentage of close to 1.100 on the first pitch.
Saltalamacchia set up for the pitch down and away and Alvarez missed inside, allowing Johnson to turn on it and send it over the left-field wall.
A .206 hitter (7-for-34) against the Marlins through 10 games, Justin Upton accounted for half of the Braves' six hits off Alvarez, who gave up at least one hit every inning except the first. His defense helped. Saltalamacchia threw out B.J. Upton trying to steal second in the third. Three innings later, Hechavarria caught a Jason Heyward soft liner and doubled off Justin Upton at first.
The Marlins have won 11 of Alvarez's last 13 starts.
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