Braves earn 1st win by rallying past Marlins

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MIAMI — The Atlanta Braves gathered on the field for hugs and high fives, executing a flawless postgame celebration despite a lack of practice.

“It’s nice to touch people’s hands for once,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, still grinning 20 minutes later. “It’s a nice little two-ton boulder off our shoulders.”

Adonis Garcia drove in three runs in the final three innings and the Braves rallied for their first victory of the year after nine consecutive losses, beating the Miami Marlins 6-3 on Friday night.

The Braves managed just one hit in the first six innings, trailed 3-0 in the seventh and appeared on the verge of falling to 0-10, which would have matched the worst start in franchise history in 1988.

“A three-ulcer night,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

The comeback began with three consecutive hits in the seventh, including a double by Garcia to drive in the first Atlanta run. Nick Markakis‘ RBI single in the eighth made it 3-all, and Garcia’s two-run double put the Braves ahead.

“It’s an extremely important victory, not just because it was our first one, but because we were able to come from behind,” Garcia said through a translator.

Alexi Ogando (1-0) pitched two innings. Ogando and four other relievers combined for 4 2-3 scoreless innings.

“It’s almost like a playoff win for us,” Freeman said. “You hate to say it was almost a must win, but it was almost a must win.”

Freeman singled and scored while hiking his average to .107.

Miami’s Marcell Ozuna had three hits, but struck out with the bases loaded against Arodys Vizcaino to end the eighth. Vizcaino went 1 1-3 innings and retired J.T. Realmuto on a groundout with two on in the ninth for the save.

Even though Gonzalez’s pitching changes worked, the manager second-guessed himself afterward, saying he asked too much from Vizcaino.

“I’m not real happy about my usage of the bullpen,” he said. “I don’t like putting players in positions where they might hurt themselves, and Vizcaino throwing 35 pitches doesn’t sit well with me.”

Braves starter Williams Perez allowed eight hits and three runs in 4 1-3 innings. After two starts he has an ERA of 7.00.

David Phelps (2-1) allowed two runs in one inning and was part of a meltdown by the Marlins’ bullpen, which hit two batters in a four-run eighth.

“It was one of those games,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We didn’t get the outs that we needed.”

Christian Yelich had three hits for Miami to raise his average to .429.

Marlins newcomer Wei-Yin Chen, making his second start of the year, allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings. Chen hadn’t pitched since opening day, when he was hit on the throwing elbow by a comebacker but stayed in the game, but he hardly looked rusty.

In the first 6 1-3 innings he allowed only one hit and faced the minimum, but three consecutive hits sent him packing.

The Marlins, starting a seven-game homestand, fell to 0-3 this year at home. The Braves improved to 26-12 at Marlins Park.

FIELDING WOES

Third baseman Garcia committed back to back errors in the third inning, but they didn’t lead to any runs. Garcia has four errors this season.

“The game didn’t start the way I wanted,” Garcia said, “but luckily baseball is a game of opportunities, and I got more opportunities to help the team.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Marlins: LHP Mike Dunn, who is on the DL with a strained left forearm, said he underwent a second MRI that reconfirmed the initial diagnosis of inflammation. “It’s just a matter of giving it rest,” Dunn said. There is no timetable yet for him to begin throwing.

UP NEXT

Braves RHP Bud Norris (0-2, 6.00) is scheduled to face RHP Tom Koehler (0-1, 2.84) on Saturday. Norris has a 6.18 ERA in five career starts against Miami.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.