MIAMI – The Braves returned home from Miami Thursday night with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, Atlanta swept Miami, securing the series finale with a 6-3 win on Thursday afternoon, and Marcell Ozuna had an outstanding performance (6 for 13 with three homers in the series). But in the process, the Braves lost right-hander Kyle Wright (right shoulder inflammation) to IL for the second time in just over a month, and went home with Michael Harris II ( stuck right knee) day to day.
“It’s really, really good (to end the road trip 5-1),” manager Brian Snitker said. “But it was a tough road trip. I mean, the Marlins are playing really well. … It was a tough series to come here.
After using five bullpen arms on Wednesday following Wright’s third-inning exit, the Braves needed a boost. That’s exactly what they got from Dylan Dodd, who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to start.
“It was pretty crazy,” Dodd said. “I rushed to the ballpark (after getting the call yesterday), pitched, then went straight to the airport. I ended up being late and then finally got here – not great, I think it was about 10:30 p.m. EST.”
Dodd, Atlanta’s No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, delivered a quality start while showing off the maturity and arsenal that propelled him from High-A Rome to Triple-A last year in just 26 starts — only nine of which have come at Double-A Mississippi.
Things didn’t start off easy for Dodd against the Marlins, however. He allowed a single to Jon Berti to start the first inning, then allowed a two-run homer to Jorge Soler on the next at-bat. But he bounced back quickly and caused a pair of flyouts. Dodd worked on a few jams against Miami, but those only highlighted the talents that, while they might not be fully Major League-ready, are indicative of the southpaw’s bright future.
“Oh my god, that was awesome,” Snitker said of Dodd’s departure. “Really big. … I looked up there and it’s just – he just throws shot after shot after shot. The kid has a great future. As he matures and gains experience – it’s probably not the last time we’ll see him this year, so it was really important for us and the bullpen. He left us in great shape to play a game tomorrow.
“He had second and third, nobody on the outside and (he) blocked them, kept us there,” receiver Sean Murphy said. “It was huge. It was great – a lot of maturity. He didn’t let it go too fast and snowball on him, and he just kept throwing and he underplayed and did really well.
Murphy was outlining the fifth inning, when Dodd allowed his first walk to start the inning, then gave up an RBI single and double at the top of the order. It could shake anyone, but Dodd held on. He induced a pair of flyouts to his corner fielders, who have such powerful arms they were able to keep speedster and defending stolen bases champion Jon Berti at third base.
“He’s just throwing another strike,” Snitker said. “He doesn’t get rattled or anything, and he’s a really good hitter who he gave up a homer to (in the first inning). I noticed in the spring — you could get beaten, but he comes right back and gets into the strike zone. So that was really impressive, and that was a huge, huge lift for us today.
Dodd allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings. That’s misleading though, as Dodd didn’t walk until the fifth inning, which only happened after Peyton Burdick worked 11 pitches at bat.
Part of Dodd’s ability to generate results is due to the fact that he can throw strikes. He had a 62% first pitch rate against the Marlins; The MLB average is 60.6%, and on Thursday the Braves’ starter average was 61.4%. Dodd was able to successfully score two strikes (he led with two strikes 12 times), but he didn’t get that third swing-and-miss. So he goes back to work.
“I think for me to really improve, I think it’s about having more swing and missing,” Dodd said. “I’m doing a pretty good job of attacking the zone and filling it in and getting the guys 0-2 up, but lately I’ve been struggling to get the third swing and miss.”
“They’re good building blocks,” Murphy said. “And good things – he can learn a lot.”