Volstad, offense struggle in Marlins' 5-0 loss
ATLANTA – This is becoming very familiar for the Florida Marlins.
A runner gets in scoring position — and goes no farther.
Tommy Hanson pitched four-hit ball over seven innings for his first win, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann homered, and Chipper Jones drove in two runs as the Atlanta Braves blanked the Marlins 5-0 Tuesday night.
Chris Volstad (0-1) didn't make it through the fifth, and Florida went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"We've been struggling pretty much all season with runners in scoring position and today wasn't any different," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "Hanson was making his pitches with runners in scoring position. But it wasn't only tonight. We've been struggling with runners in scoring position."
Volstad had trouble with his location and gave up three runs on two-out hits.
"It's just a matter of getting the ball down a little bit more," he said. "I really can't put a finger on it. But it's just a matter of location."
Hanson (1-2) was helped by several nifty defensive plays, two of them diving stops by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The big right-hander also had a few runs to work with.
The Braves has struggled offensively over their first 10 games, scoring three runs or fewer seven times — including both of Hanson's starts. This time, that wasn't a problem. Heyward homered in the fourth, McCann in the fifth on a cool, breezy night.
Hanson used his changeup often and effectively, mixed in with a slider and curve.
"It was one of those days when everything worked," he said.
Not for Volstad, who went 4 2-3 innings, allowing eight hits and all five runs. One was too many in this one, giving that Florida also hit into a pair of double plays.
"(Hanson) made pitches when he had to. He shut us down," Logan Morrison said. "One thing I will say is we need to do a better job of getting runners in, moving runners over. I don't know if it was more us or Tommy. But Tommy did what he had to do."
There weren't many people there to see it. The announced crowd of 13,856 was the smallest in Turner Field history.
Volstad breezed through the first two innings before Atlanta broke through in the third after the first two hitters struck out. Martin Prado lined a single and Nate McLouth followed with a double to the gap in right-center, Prado coming all the way around to score. Jones followed with another two-out hit, going the other way to left to make it 2-0.
Heyward made it 3-0 in the fourth, hitting a towering drive over the 400-foot sign in center field for his third homer of the season
The Braves finished off Volstad in the fifth. One run was a lesson in small ball. The other was pure power.
Prado led off with a double, McLouth sacrificed him to third, setting up Jones to finish the job with a sacrifice fly. McCann came up next and got a more immediate result — a drive into the Braves' right-field bullpen for his first homer of the season. That was it for the Marlins starter.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez faced his former team for the first time. He managed the Marlins for 3½ years before being fired last summer.
Asked if the game had any special significance, he replied, "Nope. Just a baseball game."
Hanson and the bullpen got plenty of defensive help, too.
In the sixth, Hanley Ramirez hit a wicked two-hopper that appeared headed for left field, but Alex Gonzalez flopped down to make a backhanded grab. His throw to first skipped in the dirt, but Freddie Freeman dug it out so the defensive gem didn't go wasted.
"Wow," Hanson said on the mound.
The next inning, McLouth raced to deep center to haul in a drive by Morrison before planting his face into the padded wall. Again, Hanson saluted the effort, raising his hand toward McLouth, who replied with a tip of his cap.
Hanson left after the seventh but, fortunately for the Braves, Gonzalez was still at short. He came up with another diving stop in the hole, rolling over in time to get a force at second that prevented at least one run from scoring.
"Gonzo was unbelievable defensively," his manager said. "I think he was just showing off at the end."
NOTES: The Marlins' Rodriguez said he's got no hard feelings after a wild game last Sunday in Houston, but has no doubt that Astros reliever Aneury Rodriguez intentionally hit Gaby Sanchez with a pitch. The reliever and Houston manager Brad Mills were both ejected and received suspensions, the pitcher for three games and Mills for one. "On our part, it's done," Edwin Rodriguez said. "Hopefully, they've turned the page, too." ... For the first time since opening day, Ramirez and Mike Stanton were both in the Florida lineup. They have been plagued by injuries over the first two weeks of the season.