ATLANTA -- Another game, another nail-biter for Braves fans but Atlanta's bench proved decisive in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Marlins on Tuesday night at Turner Field before a crowd of 36,155.
Making just his fourth career regular-season start on short rest, Tim Hudson limited the Marlins to just one run in his 100-pitch, six-inning effort. Four of the seven hits he surrendered were infield singles.
"It started with him," said manager Bobby Cox pointing to Hudson, "he kept us there the whole night." Cox again had high praise for the bullpen and his bench.
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Brooks Conrad, taking the place of Martin Prado at third, stirred a slumbering offense with a game-tying triple and Eric Hinske responded two batters later with a two-out, two-run seventh-inning homer that put Atlanta in front.
Cox noted that Hinske was 0-for-10 against Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez but got a pitch he could hit and delivered.
The Braves will spend the remainder of this season without two of their most valuable players -- Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. But with Hinske and Conrad, they still possess much of the heart and soul of a club that manager Bobby Cox considers to be the hardest-working one he's ever had.
Of Conrad, Cox noted, "He's won a ton of games for us or tied them. He's a great guy to have off the bench and now he's a regular."
About an hour after the Braves revealed that Prado would miss the remainder of this season with a torn left oblique muscle, Conrad further proved he can serve as a capable replacement. Making his first start at third base, the former Minor League journeyman who has evolved into Mr. Clutch, provided yet another late-inning spark that further strengthened Atlanta's postseason hopes.
And Hinske came off the bench and gave the Braves everything that they needed by drilling Sanchez's 2-2 fastball about 396 feet over the right-field wall.
Hinske's first homer since Aug. 27 provided the cushion necessary to negate the damage created when the Marlins cut their deficit to one run with Dan Uggla's eighth-inning leadoff homer off Peter Moylan.
Craig Kimbrel, who preceded Moylan, pitched a scoreless inning with three strikeouts. His ERA fell to just 0.47.
Billy Wagner notched his 36th save with a scoreless ninth inning for the Braves, who entered the day with a half-game lead over the Padres in the National League Wild Card standings.
Conrad, who entered the game batting .298 in the seventh inning or later, sparked the decisive seventh inning with the game-tying triple that forced Marlins center fielder Cameron Maybin to crash into the outfield wall and seemingly suffer a leg injury.
After Rick Ankiel struck out, Hinske chased Sanchez with his crushing blow. The Marlins right-hander allowed just four hits while keeping the Braves scoreless through the first six innings.
Brad Davis opened the decisive third inning with a double that spun Melky Cabrera around before bouncing against the left-center-field wall. After Sanchez struck out, Emilio Bonifacio and Maybin produced back-to-back infield singles that led to the only run surrendered by Hudson.
Atlanta will conclude this three-game series against the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon.
Derek Lowe (15-12), who (like Hudson tonight) will also start on short rest, will be on the hill for the Braves against lefty Andrew Miller (1-4) as Atlanta goes for the sweep.
The regular season this weekend with a three-game series against the Phillies, who just wrapped up their fourth consecutive NL East Title.
Although this article concerns the Atlanta Braves, it should be noted that the Cincinnati Reds, who have several former members of the Chattanooga Lookouts on their roster, have clinched the National League Central Division title. Former Lookout Jay Bruce hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning Tuesday to give the Reds a 3-2 win over the Astros.
Additional source from MLB.com
Eric Hinske hit his third pinch-hit home run of the season (and fifth in his career).
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt