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A.J. Pierzynski hits 2-run homer and Braves complete 3-game sweep by beating Marlins 2-0

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MIAMI — The way the Atlanta Braves are pitching, one big swing from their backup catcher was enough to complete a sweep.

A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer and five pitchers combined on a six-hitter Wednesday night to help Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins for the third game in a row, 2-0.

The season-opening sweep was the first for the Braves since 2007. They're supposedly rebuilding, while the Marlins have playoff hopes, but Atlanta outscored Miami 16-3 in the series.

"To come in here and play against a team people are expecting big things out of, and to play the way we did, hopefully it carries over," Pierzynski said.

Shelby Miller made his first start with the Braves and allowed four hits in five innings. Brandon Cunniff (1-0) followed with 1 2-3 perfect innings for his first major-league victory.

Jason Grilli, who assumed the closer's job when Craig Kimbrel was traded on the eve of the season, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save in as many chances.

The 38-year-old Pierzynski, playing in his first game with his newest team, broke up a scoreless tie in the seventh inning against Tom Koehler (0-1).

"For my first hit as a Brave to be a home run is pretty cool," Pierzynski said. "But more important is the way we pitched tonight. Our guys were lights out from Shelby all the way to Grilli. That was the biggest thing. I'm so proud the way we pitched, not only tonight but the whole series. We did a really good job containing them, making big pitches in big situations."

The Braves lowered their ERA to 1.00, while the Marlins are batting .200. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami's $325 million slugger, struck out three times and is batting .125. Adeiny Hechavarria is 0 for 10.

"You go through spells like that," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We came out of spring training and I thought we were swinging the bats really well. I give the Braves credit for the way they pitched. They pitched really well and shut us down."

Koehler held the Braves scoreless until his 92nd and final pitch. He gave up a leadoff single in the seventh to Freddie Freeman, and Pierzynski followed with a homer.

"Koehler left the ball over the plate, and he ambushed it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You've got to hit it to get it out of this ballpark. It went out pretty easily."

PHOTO: Atlanta Braves Shelby Miller pitches against the Miami Marlins in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Atlanta Braves Shelby Miller pitches against the Miami Marlins in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

For the third game in a row, the Marlins loaded the bases and failed to score. Miller escaped the jam when Michael Morse grounded out to end the inning.

Success for the Braves is nothing new at Marlins Park, where they are 22-9.

"We played good baseball," Gonzalez said. "We pitched and had timely hitting."

GREAT CATCH

Right fielder Stanton looked a wide receiver — which he was in high school — when he saved at least one run in the fourth inning by chasing down Freeman's deep fly. Stanton made a running, over-the-shoulder catch that left him sprawled on the grass, quickly rose and threw a strike to first to double up Nick Markakis.

LINEUP TWEAK

Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has struck out five times and is hitless in seven at-bats, was replaced by Jeff Mathis in the lineup.

"Slow start, but it's two games," Redmond said. "I don't get too excited about seven at-bats when guys get 500 or 600."

Saltalamacchia batted only .220 last year.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Eric Stults (8-17, 4.30 ERA for the Padres in 2014) will start in Atlanta's home opener Friday against the Mets and Jonathon Niese (9-11, 3.40).

"Last year, at the beginning of the season, I had a rough patch," Stults said. "Then the last two or two and a half months, I really felt I started throwing the ball well."

Marlins: RHP Dan Haren, who considered retirement during the offseason, will make his first start for Miami on Friday against Tampa Bay. Haren went 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA for the Dodgers in 2014.

Miami won all four games against the Rays last year.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Miami Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler (34) prepares to pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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