LeBlanc leads string of Marlins to stop Braves

LeBlanc leads string of Marlins to stop Braves

LeBlanc leads string of Marlins to stop Braves
ATLANTA -- As a starter, Wade LeBlanc sure gave the Marlins a sense of relief.

The left-hander yielded one run in 4 1/3 innings in his rotation debut, and the bullpen did the rest as the Marlins edged the Braves, 4-2, on Wednesday night in front of 18,133 at Turner Field.

After dropping the first two games of the four-game set, the Marlins avoided falling a season-worst 10 games under .500. Miami is now 48-56 and in position to gain a series split on Thursday.

"Tough one. A very tough one," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We jumped out right away with three runs. It was a little different ballgame. It's a different ballgame when we score early, putting three runs on the board. We pitched better."

LeBlanc stepped into the rotation in Carlos Zambrano's spot. After making 11 relief appearances, the left-hander hadn't thrown more than 31 pitches at the big league level this year.

The Marlins didn't want LeBlanc to exceed 75 pitches, and the lefty's night was over after 71.

Zambrano, who worked 1 2/3 innings of relief, was credited with the win, his second career victory out of the bullpen.

LeBlanc, Zambrano, Heath Bell, Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek combined to close out the Braves, snapping their seven-game winning streak, and Miami handed Ben Sheets (3-1) his first loss in four starts.

The Marlins kept close tabs on LeBlanc, who was lifted after 4 1/3 innings, two outs shy of qualifying for the victory. Out of LeBlanc's 71 pitches, 46 went for strikes. He allowed one run on five hits and exited with Paul Janish on second. Zambrano worked out of the jam.

LeBlanc tried to lobby to remain in the game and qualify for the win. But Guillen felt the time was right to make a switch.

"I had to fight him for the fifth," LeBlanc said. "He told me no more than 75. When he came out, I said, 'I got four left.' He said he was going to get me then."

Guillen followed a plan he had discussed with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

"If the kid was running for the Cy Young, yes," Guillen said about leaving LeBlanc in. "He's not. Obviously, he wanted the win, but in the meanwhile, we've got to take care of some business. Then all of a sudden we're overworking him for no reason, and this kid got hurt. I'd rather not win the game and he stay healthy, than win the game and be hurt. My priority is to keep those guys healthy, and second, win games."

Jose Reyes singled with one out in the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak to 19 games, one shy of his career best. It appeared Reyes had a hit in the third inning when his long fly ball down the right-field line kicked up chalk, but the ball was ruled foul. Reyes ended up getting robbed in the at-bat when Janish, the Braves' shortstop, made a sensational diving catch near the line in short left field.

Sheets recovered from a rough first inning, and he gave up four runs (three earned) on 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Held to a total of three runs in the first two games of the series, the Marlins responded with three runs in the first inning off Sheets.

Emilio Bonifacio got things started with a bunt single, and Donnie Murphy's single put runners on the corners. Carlos Lee started a string of three straight RBI singles. Greg Dobbs brought in a run with a single to center, and Bryan Petersen singled to right.

"I needed to find a way to nip that first inning in the bud," said Sheets, who recovered to strike out eight. "I think if I had just fielded my position [on Dobbs' liner], I would have had a shot."

In the second inning, the Braves pushed across a run on Janish's two-out RBI double. On the play, Petersen got a late jump on the floater to center, not picking up the ball in the lights.

Petersen was shaken up on the play, as he tweaked his right shoulder. Assistant trainer Mike Kozak and Guillen checked on Petersen, who threw a few warmup tosses and remained in the game.

The Marlins added a run in the fourth with back-to-back two-out hits. Scott Cousins reached on an infield single, and LeBlanc slapped a double to left. The ball was misplayed by Martin Prado in left, allowing Cousins to score an unearned run. LeBlanc was credited with his first career double, but he didn't pick up an RBI.

"Any time you can get lucky and help yourself out, it's a plus," LeBlanc said.

It's the way LeBlanc threw that likely earned him another start in five days.

"Like I've said before, anything they want me to do to help this team win, I'll do," the left-hander said. "It's not like it's foreign territory to start for me. The bigger adjustment was to go from starting to the bullpen. Now that I've done both, I feel like I'm comfortable either way.

"My arm still felt pretty good, even though it was hot out there."

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