published Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Freeman, Santana pace Braves past Marlins

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run in their game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run in their game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATLANTA — Freddie Freeman isn't sure why Miami's pitching staff has been so hard for him to handle this year.

"It's just one of those things," he said. "I can't explain it, you guys can't explain it, nobody can explain it, but I was able to get a hit tonight."

Freeman hit a three-run homer, Ervin Santana won his second straight start and the Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 6-1 on Wednesday night.

The victory pulled Atlanta within one game of first-place Washington in the NL East.

Fourth-place Miami snapped a three-game winning streak to stay 8½ games back.

Freeman, an All-Star first baseman, broke out of a slump in the season series against the Marlins, ending a 2 for 44 stretch by hitting his 14th homer as the Braves took a 5-0 lead in the four-run second inning.

His opposite-field homer landed in the seats in left-center, just how Freeman envisioned it during batting practice.

"I was able to carry it over into the game, and it was a nice feeling," Freeman said. "Hopefully I can keep going with that."

Santana (9-6) won for third time in four starts, giving up six hits and one run with three walks and 10 strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings.

He credited good command of his slider with setting an early tone.

"It was very good," Santana said. "I could throw it in any count for strikes. I was very comfortable in throwing that pitch today."

Santana registered double-digit strikeouts for the second time this year and the 13th time in his 10-year career when pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin whiffed to begin the eighth.

But Santana walked Christian Yelich and gave up a single to Donovan Solano, leading manager Fredi Gonzalez to bring in Jordan Walden, who struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee to end the threat.

Nathan Eovaldi (5-6) failed to win for his fifth straight start after allowing six hits, five runs and two walks in seven innings. He struck out two.

Eovaldi began the night with a 4-0 record and a 2.21 ERA in eight starts against the NL East this year and was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last seven starts against Atlanta.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first on Justin Upton's sacrifice fly RBI.

In the second, Atlanta went up 5-0 on Tommy La Stella's RBI single and Freeman's homer.

"He got that pitch," Eovaldi said of Freeman's long ball. "He's always a threat up there regardless of how he's been swinging. He's got the power and he just went down there and hit a good pitch."

Miami made it 5-1 in the third on Christian Yelich's RBI single.

In the Braves' eighth, Jason Heyward singled against Sam Dyson, stole second base and took third on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throwing error.

Heyward then broke for home on Chris Johnson's grounder to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who threw to Saltalamacchia to get Heyward in a run-down.

Third baseman McGehee, however, missed tagging Heyward, who was called safe by third base umpire Alan Porter as he dove back to the bag.

Marlins manager Mike Redmond did not ask for the play to be reviewed, but he was ejected after arguing with Porter.

Heyward scored when the next batter, Gerald Laird, singled to make it 6-1.

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