ATLANTA -- Justin Nicolino completed seven scoreless innings and received some comfort courtesy of a Justin Bour three-run home run that allowed the Marlins to cruise to a 7-1 win over the Braves on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
Nicolino scattered six hits while subduing a Braves club that has tallied just one run through the first 18 innings of this three-game series. The Marlins scored a pair of first-inning runs against spot starter Manny Banuelos and Bour, who was given a rare start against a left-handed pitcher, capped a four-run seventh inning with the three-run shot he hit off right-handed reliever Ryan Kelly.
"I started off a little shaky," Nicolino said. "The command of my fastball wasn't where it needed to be. I made a few pitches where the defense picked me up."
Banuelos was limited to just 52 pitches because he of the limited workload he had compiled since being placed on the disabled list on July 28 with a bone spur in his left elbow. Sugar Ray Marimon entered with two outs in the third inning and kept the Marlins scoreless until the seventh inning began with a Dee Gordon single and Christian Yelich double.
The Braves have lost 14 of their past 15 games and now sit just a half-game in front of the fourth-place Marlins and 1 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Phillies in the National League East standings.
"All you can control is your effort and your intensity and what you bring every day," Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We're trying to do that. We all know where we stand. It's tough, but we'll be here tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Double plays, twice as effective: Nicolino was able to squirm out of trouble courtesy of three double plays over the first five innings. He had two on in the first, but got Nick Swisher to bounce into a 6-4-3 DP. And in the third, after loading the bases with no outs, Bour made one of his best defensive plays of the season. Bour made a diving catch at first base to rob Cameron Maybin. He then sprinted to first to double up Nick Markakis. In the fifth inning, Daniel Castro bounced into a 5-4-3 DP after Jace Peterson's leadoff single. More >
"That for me is pitching," manager Dan Jennings said. "Executing a pitch to get a ground ball when you need it. J.B.'s play, that was a great play there, the dive. The double plays, we've seen that this year. Our guys have been able to do that, the crucial plays. Knowing the defense is there for you, it gives the pitcher the confidence to go in, make pitches and get the ground balls."
Olivera's debut: Braves third baseman Hector Olivera went hitless while recording four plate appearances in his much-anticipated Major League debut. Olivera grounded out in his first two plate at-bats and then followed A.J. Pierzynski's leadoff single with a strikeout in the seventh inning. The 30-year-old Cuban who was acquired from the Dodgers on July 30 lined out to end the eighth inning after Pierzynski had scored Freddie Freeman with his second single of the night. More >
Bour's clinching blast: As part of their evaluation process, the Marlins intend to give Bour starts against lefties. The first baseman was in the lineup again with Banuelos getting the nod. Bour walked in the first inning. But in the seventh inning off Kelly, Bour broke the game open with a three-run homer. The drive was his third homer of the road trip, as he belted two at Washington over the weekend. Statcast™ projected the home run at 450 feet with an exit velocity of 112 mph. Bour has eight RBIs on the road trip.
"He had a nice at-bat, fouled off some pitches, got the fastball and, wow, that ball was crushed," manager Dan Jennings said.
Banuelos' return: Banuelos was forced into this spot start because Shelby Miller was pushed up a day to account for the viral symptoms that prevented Mike Foltynewicz from starting on Monday. Banuelos had made just two, two-inning rehab appearances over the past month. The Braves will likely send him to the mound again on Sunday in Washington, D.C.
"This is just his first start back in the big leagues," Gonzalez said. "We didn't expect anything more. We were hoping for clean innings. We were hoping for three solid innings. But, he's healthy and he'll go on to his next start."
"This is an audition for the young pitchers. The guys that are stepping up and taking advantage of the opportunities will certainly be the frontrunners going into 2016." -- Jennings, on Nicolino making a case for 2016 rotation
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Gordon stole two bases on Tuesday, giving him 47 on the season, which is one shy of matching Luis Castillo (48 in 2002) for the ninth most by a Marlin in a season. The franchise record is 65 by Juan Pierre in 2003.
The Braves were unsuccessful with the challenge they issued after Cole Gillespie was ruled safe on Marimon's pickoff attempt in the third inning. Though some angles appeared to show Freeman tagged Gillespie before he got back to the bag, the call stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: The Marlins wrap up their six-game road trip, and three-game set with the Braves, at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. In the matinee, rookie left-hander Adam Conley (2-1, 4.96) makes his sixth big league start.
Braves: Atlanta will counter with Williams Perez, who was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett when Foltynewicz was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday night with costochondritis (an inflamed chest wall). Perez was sent to Gwinnett after Friday's rough outing against the Yankees left him with a 9.87 ERA in his past six starts.