McCann's blast allays Braves' frustration

McCann's blast allays Braves' frustration

MIAMI -- After flirting with the possibility of carrying their frustrations back to Atlanta, the Braves found Brian McCann righting their ship with a swing that erased most of the anger he and his teammates had experienced during the previous two days.

Instead of feeling the sting of a three-game sweep, the Braves exited Land Shark Stadium on Thursday night celebrating the 6-3, 10-inning win that McCann delivered with his three-run homer off Marlins reliever Luis Ayala.

"We won an important game," Javier Vazquez said. "Those first two losses in the first two games of the series weren't good. So it was important to get this win today."

After the Marlins produced a two-run eighth inning that ruined Vazquez's bid to win a fourth consecutive start, there was reason to wonder if the Braves were positioning themselves to prolong this week's struggles, which began Tuesday night, when Rafael Soriano allowed a walk-off two-run homer and suffered just his second blown save in 16 opportunities.

While dropping Wednesday night's game, the Braves were doomed by Josh Johnson's three-run homer and infuriated with plate umpire Bill Hohn, who had ejected both manager Bobby Cox and McCann in the eighth inning.

"Baseball is a crazy game," McCann said. "Last night was last night. We put it behind us and moved on."

Forced into extra innings after Jorge Cantu produced an unplayable, game-tying two-out chopper in the eighth inning against Mike Gonzalez, the Braves started their 10th inning with a single by Nate McLouth, who advanced to second base on Kelly Johnson's sacrifice bunt.

After Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to intentionally walk Chipper Jones, McCann capped a three-hit night by drilling Ayala's 2-2 slider into the right-center-field seats. The All-Star catcher said that he wasn't motivated by the fact that the Marlins had chosen to pitch to him instead of Jones.

"That's Chipper Jones," McCann said. "I'd have done the same thing. Just to come through there, that might have been one of my better at-bats of the season."

McCann, who entered the series finale hitless in his 16 at-bats against Florida this year, also added a pair of doubles, including one in the second inning that put him in position to score the game's first run on Casey Kotchman's two-run double off Marlins starter Rick Vandenhurk.

"You don't like to blow the lead, but we came right back and won it," Cox said. "That was a great at-bat by McLouth and a great bunt by Kelly. McCann did the rest."

The Braves, who needed this victory to split their six-game road trip, were cruising toward a victory before the Marlins started their game-tying two-run eighth inning with Cody Ross' homer off Vazquez. After issuing a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Brett Carroll, the Atlanta right-hander ended his 110-pitch performance by giving way to Mike Gonzalez, who promptly allowed a single and uncorked a wild pitch, giving Florida runners at second and third with just one out.

Gonzalez struck out Emilio Bonifacio and intentionally walked Hanley Ramirez before allowing Cantu to produce his game-tying chopper that proved to be unplayable for Jones, who was attempting to charge and make an off-balance throw to first base.

"Vazquez pitched a terrific game and had no luck at the end," Cox said in reference to his right-hander, who was charged with three earned runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Vazquez, who is 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in his past seven starts, proved perfect through the first two innings and had surrendered just one hit before Jeremy Hermida opened the bottom of the fifth with a double that put him in position to score on Ronny Paulino's two-out RBI single.

"[Vazquez] was good," Gonzalez said. "He had command of all of his pitches and both sides of the plate with his fastball, and yeah, we just happened to scratch a couple off him, but he did a nice job."

The Braves, who have won each of the past five games started by Vazquez, entered this series tied with the Marlins and riding the momentum created while winning nine of their first 12 games coming out of the All-Star break. While that momentum was stalled during the first two games of this series, Atlanta found a way to prove it could overcome this latest dose of late-inning adversity.

"We're still playing good baseball," McCann said. "That's the sign of a good team. When you lose a couple in a row and people are getting a little antsy, you've got to win these kinds of games."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.