- David O'Brien The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
MIAMI – Braves prospect Luiz Gohara opened the season pitching in Florida for the Fire Frogs against the Daytona Tortugas, and closed it in Florida pitching against the Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton. And for five innings Friday night, the big left-hander was dominant, showing why some believe he’s the best of four Braves prospects who made their first major league starts this season.
But after taking a one-hitter and 5-0 lead into the sixth inning, Gohara gave up two runs on four hits in the sixth and left after facing two batters in a four-run seventh inning that lifted the Marlins to a 6-5 win at Marlins Park, handing the Braves their fifth straight loss.
“That’s a tough one right there,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who left pinch-hitter Matt Kemp in to face Brad Ziegler after a Marlins pitching change with bases loaded and one out in the ninth. Kemp hit a comebacker to the mound to start a game-ending double play.
Ozzie Albies homered on the second pitch of the game and Lane Adams added a three-run homer in the first inning for the Braves, who led 5-0 after two innings and knocked Marlins starter Dan Straily out of the game after three innings, then didn’t get another runner to third base until the ninth.
They loaded the bases against lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia in the ninth before pinch-hitter Matt Kemp was announced, at which point the Marlins brought in right-hander Brad Ziegler, who’d held Kemp to one hit in 19 career at-bats.
Kemp is now 1-for-20 against him with one walk, seven strikeouts and two double plays grounded into. Matt Adams, who was also available to pinch-hit, is 1-for-5 with a walk and a double against Ziegler.
“Yeah, I thought about it (going to Adams), but I kind of had a good feeling about Matt (Kemp), too,” Snitker said. “It’s just one of them things. If he gets a hit right there, everything’s great. But he didn’t, so … what if.”
With Ender Inciarte bothered by nagging soreness in his left thumb, Albies hit leadoff in his place and Lane Adams started in center field in place of the Gold Glover. Those two homered before Straily recorded his second out on a night when most fans came out to see another player swing for the fences, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who homered twice in Thursday’s series opener to give him 59.
On Friday, Stanton had a line-drive double and scored a run in the two-run sixth inning and added a dribbler of a bases-loaded RBI single in the seventh with the Braves infield playing back. He remains one homer shy of 60 and will face Braves rookie starters Lucas Sims on Saturday and left-hander Max Fried on Sunday in the season’s final two games.
They are the other two Braves prospects who made their first starts late this season, after Sean Newcomb made his debut earlier in the summer and spent the last half the season in the rotation.
Gohara, only 21, might be the best of the bunch, with an outstanding 97-98 mph fastball complimented by a good breaking ball and improving changeup. He got no decision Friday and finishes 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA in five major league starts, but after giving up six earned runs in his debut against Texas, Gohara posted a a 2.22 ERA over his next three starts plus the first five innings Friday.
He would end up being charged with six hits and four runs, the last two of which scored after he left the game with two runners on and none out in the seventh inning. Gohara had two walks and six strikeouts.
“The kid’s got a great arm and he’s going to real good for a long time,” Snitker said. “There’s no reason he can’t be part of the rotation next year. He’s a legit guy. I mean, he’s a potential top-of-rotation type guy. He holds his velocity; it’s not an effort for him to throw the ball. That’s something you really like about him.”
Gohara retired the first seven batters before Miguel Rojas’ third-inning double, then retired eight of the next nine with only a Marcell Ozuna walk in that span.
“It’s impressive when you’re paying behind him,” Lane Adams said. “It’s hard to really tell (a pitcher’s) stuff when you’re in the outfield, but when you can see how good this guy’s fastball is from left or righ (field) or wherever you’re playing, it’s pretty good. He’s a competitor, he’s really composed, really mature on the mound for his age. He just goes about his business. I think he’s going to be really good for a really long time.”
Gohara was cruising until Dee Gordon’s infield single with one out in the sixth got things rolling for the Marlins, with Stanton and Ozuna following him with consecutive doubles, Ozuna driving in two runs. J.T. Realmuto added a single for the fourth consecutive hit before Gohara struck out Justin Bour and Brian Anderson consecutively to limit the damage and keep the Braves’ lead at 5-2.
After giving Gohara a chance to work out of the sixth-inning jam, Snitker decided to bring him back for the seventh to face the first two batters. That didn’t go well as the Marlins started the seventh with a Tyler Moore double and Rojas walk. That was all for Gohara, with just over a third of his 90 pitches coming after the fifth inning while recording three outs.
“He battled through and kept the damage limited in the sixth,” Snitker said. “I thought he was going to throw a complete game; pitch count was good and stuff was really good. Third time around (the lineup) didn’t…. But he made some good pitches to keep that inning manageable.”
“It’s good, to see him battle through that. Because his stuff stayed (strong), wasn’t like it went down or anything. He still had good stuff and made good pitches when he had to to get out of it.”
That why you brought him back in 7th, the two K’s to end 6th? “Yeah, I didn’t think the stuff was down. I kind of liked the matchups in the next inning with him. I didn’t see a decline in stuff. Rojas was going to be his last hitter either way.”
A.J. Minter replaced him and allowed a pinch-hit single to Tomas Telis before striking out Dee Gordon, and Snitker brought in right-hander Dan Winkler to face Stanton with bases loaded.
Stanton mis-hit a ball that rolled up the third-base line for an RBI with the infield playing deep, and Ozuna followed with a broken-bat RBI single, Adams making a strong throw to the plate to cut down the second runner trying to score on the play. But Realmuto followed with a walk, and Bour added a two-run broken-bat single off lefty Sam Freeman for the lead.