Josh Donaldson capped his strong first-half finish by hitting a two-run homer and Culberson's defensive play helped the Atlanta Braves escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to beat the Miami Marlins 4-3 on Sunday.
With no outs and the bases loaded, Culberson caught Neil Walker's fly ball in left field and threw out Jorge Alfaro at the plate . "I got chill bumps," Culberson said of hearing the fans' reaction to the plate.
Culberson has hit .323 as a pinch-hitter this season and has hit eight pinch-hit homers since the start of 2018, tied for the most in the majors, to earn the "clutch" nickname. "I like it," Culberson said. "I just hope people don't hold me to it every single day."
The Braves are 10-2 against the Marlins this season and 24-7 the past two seasons. Atlanta led 4-0 before Garrett Cooper hit a three-run homer off Chad Sobotka in the eighth. Miami then loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Alfaro led off the inning with an infield hit off Braves closer Luke Jackson. Alfaro was called out at first base before the ruling was overturned after a review. Harold Ramirez singled up the middle before Yadiel Rivera popped up a bunt that landed behind Jackson for an infield hit, loading the bases.
Culberson, a late-inning defensive replacement, caught Walker's fly ball while running toward center field. His momentum caused him to fall after making the throw. After making the tag, Braves catcher Brian McCann pumped his fist and pointed to Culberson.
The out call at the plate was upheld after a review. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he wanted a review because he thought McCann was blocking the plate. "I don't know where the rule went or maybe I don't understand it because when we looked at the replay McCann is standing on home plate and then he goes directly to taking home plate completely away with nowhere to slide," Mattingly said, adding "... in that scenario Jorge should have cleaned his clock."
The replay showed McCann had his right foot in front of the plate and his left foot on the middle of the plate as he caught Culberson's throw. Jackson walked Curtis Granderson, again loading the bases, before ending the game on Miguel Rojas' fly ball to center field. Jackson earned his 14th save.
Donaldson applauded Culberson's catch and throw and McCann's tag. "He made a great throw," Donaldson said. "Great tag. Great all around. Great execution." Freddie Freeman's bloop single off Trevor Richards in the third drove in Ronald Acuña Jr. for a 1-0 lead. Donaldson then hit a high fastball over the right-center field wall for his 200th career homer, his 18th this season.
Donaldson has hit 10 homers since June 11. He helped the Braves hit a franchise-record 143 homers before the All-Star break. Dallas Keuchel (2-2) allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings. The left-hander was lifted after walking pinch-hitter Brian Anderson and giving up a single to Rojas with one out in the eighth. Sobotka struck out César Puello before giving up Cooper's three-run homer.
Richards (3-10) allowed four runs and six hits and five walks, matching his season high, in five innings. Nick Markakis had three hits, including a run-scoring single in the fifth. Acuña had a career-high three walks.
The start of the game was delayed 26 minutes by rain. TRAINER'S ROOM Marlins: Anderson (elbow contusion) may be cleared for a return to the lineup following the All-Star break after being limited to pinch-hitting in the three-game series. He has missed five straight starts.
Braves: SS Dansby Swanson (sore left quadriceps) was 0 for 5 after missing the first two games of the series. HOMERS FOR ALL Donaldson is one of five Atlanta players with more than 15 homers. Ozzie Albies finished the first half with 14 homers, one shy of making the Braves the first team in major league history to have six players hit 15 homers before the All-Star break. Freeman (23), Acuña (21), Swanson (17) and Austin Riley (16) have more than 15. Acuña will participate in Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby.
SERIES WIN The Braves are 10-2 in decisive games of three-game series this season, including five straight wins, and 7-0 in those decisive games at home. The Braves are 8-0-1 in their past nine series.
UP NEXT Marlins: Mattingly has not announced his rotation for a three-game home series against the New York Mets following the All-Star break, beginning on Friday. Braves: Keuchel, RHP Julio Teheran (5-6, 3.75) and RHP Mike Soroka (9-1, 2.42) will be Atlanta's starters for their three-game series at San Diego, beginning on Friday.
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