Braves rally for six runs in ninth, beat Marlins 10-9 and erase demons of huge blown lead against Cubs last month

Dansby Swanson is mobbed by teammates after his walk-off single gave the Braves a wild 10-9 victory. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

The Atlanta Braves are growing up way faster than anyone could have expected. Roughly five weeks after they blew a 10-2 lead against the Cubs, they mounted a furious comeback of their own on Sunday, scoring six runs in the ninth to defeat the Miami Marlins 10-9.

The Braves trailed by six twice…

The Marlins exploded for six runs in the top of the fourth inning and led 6-0 through five-and-a-half innings. That’s when the Braves started their initial comeback. Back-to-back RBI singles from Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis scored Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr., respectively, and those two runs chased Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen.

The Marlins struck right back in the top of the seventh, with a Miguel Rojas two-run blast restoring the lead to 8-2. But the Braves answered with two of their own in the home half of the inning when an Acuña Jr. single scored Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson. After a scoreless eighth by both sides, Rojas hit his second home run of the day to extend Miami’s lead to 9-4 in the top of the ninth.

The Braves scored six in the ninth, five coming with two outs…

The Marlins sent Brad Ziegler to the mound to start the ninth, and he struck out Dansby Swanson to start the inning. But then Ryan Flaherty walked and Albies singled to put runners on the corners. Ziegler induced a sac fly from Acuña Jr., and the Braves were down to their last out down 9-5.

That’s when things got crazy.

Freeman reached on an infield single, and Albies scored when Rojas tried to nab Freeman on a scoop over to Ziegler covering first. That made it 9-6. Freeman then went to second on fielders’ indifference, and Markakis singled him home to make it 9-7 and drive Ziegler from the game.

In came Tayron Guerrero with a runner on first and two outs. Markakis stole second and Tyler Flowers walked. Kurt Suzuki, called in to pinch hit, singled home Markakis to make it 9-8. Guerrero then issued a wild pitch to advance both runners and walked Camargo to load the bases. That’s when Swanson, who had made the first out of the inning, came through with the game-winning knock, yanking one down the left-field line.

Here’s what the ninth-inning rally looked like in full:

It’s the Braves’ biggest comeback in exactly eight years…

As the Braves social media team duly noted, today marks the eight-year anniversary of the team’s biggest ninth-inning comeback rally ever: Seven runs on May 20, 2010, capped by a Brooks Conrad walk-off grand slam.

It’s even more impressive than the Cubs’ rally against the Braves…

On April 14, the Braves blew a 10-2 fourth-inning lead, giving up 12 straight runs to lose to the Cubs 14-10.

But in that game it was more the Braves imploding than anything else. Of course the Cubs deserve a ton credit for the comeback, especially in horrible weather conditions, but the Braves’ bullpen and fielding completely fell apart. Over the final three innings, the Braves issued seven walks (one intentional), hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and committed two errors. When the Cubs scored nine runs in the eighth inning, they only had three hits.

The Braves, on the other hand, benefitted from just three walks and an error during their three-inning comeback from the 8-2 deficit. Yes, if Rojas makes a perfect throw to nab Freeman on the infield single, none of this happens. And yes, some balls hit on the ground happened to find holes through the infield. But you have to give the young Braves major credit for sticking around and rallying with their backs against the wall — the final five runs came with two outs. According to FanGraphs, the lowest win expectancy the Cubs ever had in their furious comeback was 0.7 percent. The Braves reached 0.3 percent — in the ninth inning.

The Braves are legit…

Atlanta is really young — it’s the seventh-youngest roster in the league by average age. Acuña Jr. is just 20, Albies is 21 and Swanson is 24. Freeman, who quietly starred through several years’ worth of struggles as the Braves built up their farm system, is only 28.

And yet, at 28-17, the Braves lead the entire National League. And it’s not just a massive comeback against the woeful Marlins (17-29) that should prove this is a really good team. The Braves have the third-best on-base percentage (.337) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.776) in the majors. Their 56 home runs are tied for the most in the NL. The pitching staff, very much thought to be a question mark this year, has the MLB’s fourth-best ERA (3.38), and the bullpen is 11-for-14 in save opportunities, the second-best mark in the majors.

It’s certainly still early. A lot can change. The team’s youngsters could hit a wall during the dog days of the summer, and the pitching could fade. But right now the Braves are playing fantastic, entertaining baseball, and Sunday’s thrilling win only continued that trend.

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