The Miami Marlins on Tuesday were one swing away from setting up chaos. The bases were loaded in the eighth inning with two outs, trailing the Atlanta Braves by a run. A comeback Miami win — coupled with the New York Mets’ impending doubleheader sweep of the Washington Nationals — would have left the National League East title up for grabs heading into the final day of the regular season.
It didn’t happen.
Nick Fortes, pinch-hitting for Jesus Sanchez, barely hit the first pitch he saw from Raisel Iglesias foul before popping out to Dansby Swanson to end the threat.
One inning later, the Braves secured their 2-1 win over the Marlins at loanDepot park and their fifth consecutive National League East title.
“Had a shot,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Instead, it ended as so many of the Marlins’ games have ended this season: A one-run loss.
Miami (68-93) has now played in 64 one-run games this season, tying the franchise record set in 2014. They have lost a franchise-record 40 of those games.
But the loss in a sense continued Miami’s role of spoiler that has unfolded over the final week and a half of the season. Atlanta’s win on Tuesday completing their undoing of the Mets, who had a 10 1/2-game lead in the division on June 1. The Braves were 24-27 that day. They have gone 77-33 since, including a three-game sweep of the Mets last weekend that made it possible for Atlanta to clinch the division with just one win over their three games against Miami to close the season.
The Marlins held off the celebration for one day, beating the Braves 4-0 in the series opener on Monday.
They couldn’t extend the wait again.
The Braves (101-60) scored two runs off Marlins starter Braxton Garrett, who gave up six hits and walked five but also struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings. A Ronald Acuna Jr. two-out single in the second after back-to-back walks opened scoring. A William Contreras infield single down the third-base line in the fifth gave the Braves the lead for good.
Sanchez hit an opposite field home run — his 13th home run of the season — in the fourth for the Marlins’ only run.
Season finale plan
While the Marlins have not officially announced a starter, Mattingly said Elieser Hernandez will most likely start Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
Hernandez began the season in the starting rotation but was optioned to Triple A Jacksonville after pitching to a 6.75 ERA over his first 11 appearances (10 starts). He rejoined the team on July 8 and moved into a bullpen role, making eight appearances (with a COVID-related injured list stint mixed in) before being optioned to Triple A again on Aug. 19.
Mattingly said catcher Jacob Stallings will also serve as player manager for the season finale — and Mattingly’s final game as manager of the club.