Speed, small ball key all-around effort as first-place Marlins thrash Braves in home opener

Jordan McPherson
·3 min read

A squeeze bunt. Stealing home. An RBI double on a ball that barely reached the left-field grass. Station to station offense.

Small ball prevailed in the Miami Marlins’ first game at their home ballpark this season.

After winning games with power and timely hits, solid pitching and a slew of players who weren’t even considered to be part of their roster when the season began, the Marlins can point to speed and aggressive base running as two key factors they took the lead for good in their 8-2 win Friday over the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park that extended their lead on the rest of the National League East early in this shortened 60-game season.

It’s the continuation of what the Marlins did on the road for their first 12 games of the season before finally making their way back to Miami.

Find a way — any way — to win, no matter the circumstances.

“One day at a time,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said during a mid-game interview on Fox Sports Florida. “One pitch at a time, one play at a time, one inning at a time. That’s how you have to break it down. You have to pay attention to detail, especially when you’re playing in a short season. There’s not much room for error. Look, we’ve gotten off to an OK start, but we need to continue it.”

The fourth inning provided a solid jumping off point to continue this surprising run.

Eddy Alvarez and Jon Berti were on the corners with no outs in a 2-2 ball game when Magneuris Sierra dropped a bunt that dribbled down the first-base line. Braves pitcher Grant Dayton quickly checked Alvarez at third base before throwing to first for the out. As soon as the ball left Dayton’s hand, Alvarez darted home, leaping head first to score and give the Marlins (9-4) the go-ahead run.

Jonathan Villar’s infield single just beyond the third-base bag one at-bat later gave the Marlins runners on first and second before a Jesus Aguilar flyout moved Berti to third with two outs.

And then, with two outs, Villar and Berti executed a double steal with Berti stealing home.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami has stolen home in consecutive games for the first time in club history. They are the first team to do so since the Kansas City Royals on May 22-23, 1996. Eddy Alvarez stole home in the Marlins’ 14-11 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday to cap the 12-game, 23-day road trip that started the season.

Villar drove in the Marlins’ first run of the game in the second when he hit an RBI double that traveled 124 feet to left field and barely skirted on the fair side of the third-base line and touched the left-field grass. Sierra, who drew a walk and stole second before Villar’s at-bat, dashed home.

Two more runs scored each in the sixth and seventh to give the Marlins enough of a cushion to run away with their first home game of the season.

Aguilar drove in three runs on the night to give him 16 through 13 games.

Pablo Lopez, in his third start of the year, kept the Braves (11-10) at bay. He limited Atlanta to two runs — a solo home run from Travis d’Arnaud in the first and an Adam Duvall RBI double in the fourth — over six innings while setting a career high with eight strikeouts and no walks.

Nick Vincent, Stephen Tarpley and Josh A. Smith threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

They got help from some big defensive plays, too. Brian Anderson made a bare-handed grab at third base to throw out Marcell Ozuna with the bases loaded to end the fifth. Matt Joyce also made a pair of sliding grabs in left field in the sixth and seventh.