"He's not a strikeout pitcher," manager Dan Jennings said. "But what he can do is hit his location. He shares the ball. Just a tremendous effort by that young man to give us seven strong like he did. He made quality pitch after quality pitch."
More than his strikeout totals, Nicolino was more upset at himself for walking three. The lone run he allowed came in the third inning on Nick Markakis' two-out single. Cameron Maybin, who walked on four pitches to open the inning, scored from second.
"That's been the biggest thing for me, I'm walking a lot more guys than I'm used to," the 23-year-old said. "Luckily tonight only one hurt us. The biggest thing for me is, when I walk a guy, especially on four straight pitches. For me, that's my biggest kryptonite. I don't have the overpowering stuff to put guys away. If I can limit the walks and get those groundball outs, it makes it a lot easier."
Nicolino is just the fourth pitcher in the Majors this year to throw at least seven innings without a strikeout. He joins Toronto's R.A. Dickey (May 4), Cincinnati's Anthony DeSclafani (June 4) and Minnesota's Mike Pelfrey (May 8). Still, all four won.
And Nicolino is the eighth pitcher in team history to have the seven innings, no strikeout distinction. The last to do so was Chris Volstad at Oakland on June 30, 2011.
Without dominating stuff, Nicolino kept the Braves off-stride because he was able to get 10 ground ball outs and six fly ball outs.
"When I'm pitching the bottom of the zone, and getting weak contact and those ground balls, it's a lot easier to go out there and pitch and let the defense work," the lefty said. "That was key."
Nicolino's night ended after 80 pitches. He felt fresh to go out for the eighth, when the Braves loaded the bases with two outs in a 2-1 game. The Marlins' first strikeout came at a huge time as Bryan Morris fanned Adonis Garcia to end the threat.
"We're trying to use common sense with where some of these young guys are," Jennings said. "[Nicolino] threw so well, and we knew we had some bullets there in that bullpen."