Nicolino's increased maturity evident with every start

Left-hander tosses seven scoreless innings in win over Braves

Nicolino's increased maturity evident with every start

ATLANTA -- You can call it a knack.

Whatever it is, Justin Nicolino has it. The 23-year-old certainly showed his feel for pitching on Tuesday night, tossing seven shutout innings in the Marlins' 7-1 win over the Braves at Turner Field.

Rated as Miami's No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Nicolino gets the job done with precise command, changing speeds and the ability to cut his fastball.

"I started utilizing my pitches better," said Nicolino, who also got his first Major League hit in the game, a one-out single in the second inning. "Was commanding my ball a lot better. Didn't throw many curveballs. I didn't need to. The cutter for me tonight was the pitch to go to when we needed it. That was that."

Nicolino's first career hit

Whenever he got into a bind, Nicolino showed composure beyond his seven big league starts. On Tuesday, the lefty benefited from three double plays, and scattered just six hits.

"He set the tone in a great way," manager Dan Jennings said. "I thought the way he attacked, the way he pitches. The thing about Nico, the thing he can do, and he does so well, he knows how to pitch. He utilized all his pitches."

Over his last four starts, Nicolino has a 1.98 ERA over 27 1/3 innings. He doesn't overpower with fastball velocity, evident by his 15 strikeouts in 44 big league innings.

Nicolino's gem on Tuesday gave the Marlins a series win at Atlanta, and moved Miami to within a half game of the Braves for third place in the National League East.

The Braves had their chances, but each time, Nicolino was able to execute a pitch, or take advantage of a key defensive play.

In the first inning, with two on, Nick Swisher bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. And in the third inning, first baseman Justin Bour came up big with the bases full and no out. On Cameron Maybin's line drive, Bour made a diving catch, and he converted it into a double play.

Bour turns impressive DP

And in the fifth inning, Nicolino allowed a leadoff single to Jace Peterson, but Daniel Castro tapped into a 5-4-3 double play.

"Bases loaded, nobody out," Nicolino said. "I had to make a pitch, and Bour picked me up right there with a huge double play. You can't ask for much more than that, when the guys are going out there and making plays behind you. It makes you trust your stuff, and go out there and pitch. And offense picked me up as well."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.