Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (center) and relief pitcher Kameron Loe (40) react before a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. (USA TODAY Sports: Robert Mayer)
MIAMI — Freddie Freeman celebrated his 24th birthday in style Thursday afternoon.
The first baseman hit a two-run homer to lead the first-place Atlanta Braves past the last-place Florida Marlins 6-1 in the finale of a four-game series at Marlins Park.
“I don’t think I’ve done very well on my birthday before,” Freeman said. “So from a personal standpoint, this was pretty cool.”
The Braves won the series, 3-1, recovering to finish their road trip at 3-4.
Freddy Garcia (1-1) earned Thursday’s win, allowing just one run in six innings.
“That’s a veteran with experience, and he knows how to get guys out,” Freeman said of Garcia, 36. “Spot starts are difficult. You don’t expect him to go out there and go six innings, but that’s what he did.”
Garcia said he was happy to get the opportunity to start.
“I got first-pitch strikes and was aggressive,” Garcia said. “I made good pitches when I needed. Whatever (the Braves) need — bullpen or starting — I’m ready.”
Jordan Walden, who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 21 due to a groin injury, combined with David Carpenter and Anthony Varvaro to toss three scoreless innings of relief.
“Having Jordan pitch for us again was big,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “With him, Carpenter and Varvaro, we were able to save the rest of our bullpen.”
The Braves jumped on Marlins rookie starter Brian Flynn (0-1) for four runs in the third. Flynn walked the bases loaded to start the inning, losing Elliot Johnson and Justin Upton on 3-2 pitches and Freddie Freeman on a 3-1 count.
Atlanta cashed in with a two-run double by Evan Gattis — which marked his fifth straight game with at least one RBI — and a two-run double by Chris Johnson, who started the day second in the NL batting race with a .328 average.
“We needed somebody to go out there and pound the strike zone and put up some zeroes, and it just didn’t happen,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “(Flynn) fell behind to most of their lineup, and their guys can do a lot of damage.”
Flynn, who had a 6-11 record and a 2.80 ERA in 23 starts at Class AAA this year, said he’s never had control issues before. He allowed just 43 walks in 161 minor-league innings this season.
But pitching in his second big-league start, he was off his game against Atlanta.
“I took our team out of the game real early,” he said. “(Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez) said I just need to move on before I start again on Tuesday. We’re going to try to iron this out before then (in side sessions).”
The Marlins scored one run in the bottom of the third when Rob Brantly singled to second, advanced on Flynn’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a hit by Donovan Solano.
But Miami left the bases loaded when Logan Morrison popped out to center.
Freeman, playing on his 24th birthday, pulled a two-run homer to right in the fourth inning to give the Braves a 6-1 lead.