Carrying the confidence he gained while conquering Coors Field to record his first career win last week, rookie Lucas Sims subdued the Mariners’ powerful lineup and benefited from the two-hit performance Nick Markakis notched in the Braves’ 4-0 win on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park.
“He’s come a long way,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Sims, who has shown why he was once a top prospect. “He’s worked his tail off and had to work his way back up [through the Minors]. I told him last week, ‘You should feel good about this, because you’ve worked your butt off to get this opportunity.’ He’s doing well with it.”
Markakis homered to begin the fourth inning and added a fifth-inning RBI single to provide sufficient support to Sims, who scattered three hits over six scoreless innings. Making his fifth career start, the suburban Atlanta native pitched around Robinson Cano’s fourth-inning leadoff double and stranded a pair of runners when Yonder Alonso grounded out to end the top of the fifth.
“You like when it’s smooth sailing, but it’s not always going to be that way,” Sims said. “Leadoff doubles happen and leadoff homers happen. Obviously, you just try to minimize those the best you can. I’ve got a pretty good defense behind me. They were making some great plays. I was trusting them, executing the pitches and letting those guys go out and pick it for me.”
In dropping to two games back of the American League’s second Wild Card spot, the Mariners committed a pair of errors that led to their bullpen allowing a pair of unearned runs. Starting pitcher Marco Gonzales left a runner stranded in scoring position during each of the first three innings, but then allowed a run in both the fourth and fifth innings.
“We got to get him over the hump in the fifth inning, but certainly his stuff is good enough,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Tonight was a challenge with how hot it was, and the fourth inning did take a little bit out of him.”
Markakis recorded just one home run through the first 467 at-bats recorded against a left-handed pitcher with the Braves. But his fourth-inning leadoff shot against Gonzales was his third homer within a span of 22 at-bats against southpaws. The veteran outfielder then greeted left-handed reliever James Pazos with a two-out RBI single in the fifth.
“It was a changeup,” Gonzales said of the home run. “It was not a bad pitch, but he reached out and got it before it broke. Hats off to him as he put a good swing on the ball and he got it out.”
After striking out on a 3-2 changeup with two on in the first inning, Markakis went to the plate in the fourth looking for the off-speed pitch.
“I was on the fastball, but I had the changeup on my mind,” Markakis said. “Luckily, he put it over the plate and I put a good swing on it.”
The Braves have made numerous baserunning mistakes during the first two games of this series, but they gained fortune after Ozzie Albies was hung out to dry after he rounded third base on Ender Inciarte’s sixth-inning infield single. When shortstop Jean Segura threw to third baseman Kyle Seager, Albies hit the brakes, realizing he could not score. Seager’s dropped throw from Mike Zunino during the ensuing rundown allowed Albies to dive headfirst across the plate and give the Braves a 3-0 lead.
“It was a crazy game and a crazy play in the game,” Servais said. “The runner came around third, and Segura did a nice job to throw behind, and we had them in a rundown. Zunino executed fine, but we just didn’t finish the play.”
Sims’ effort was just the fourth scoreless performance by a Braves starting pitcher at SunTrust Park. The others were provided by Mike Foltynewicz (June 7 vs. Philadelphia), R.A. Dickey (June 19 vs. San Francisco) and Sean Newcomb (Sunday vs. Cincinnati).
The Mariners’ Erasmo Ramirez will start as the series concludes Wednesday Ramirez owns a 3.18 ERA in his past three starts and has allowed one earned run over his last 12 innings. R.A. Dickey will take the mound Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. CT for the Braves. The knuckleballer has surrendered 22 home runs, 16 of which have been hit at SunTrust Park.