Reporting Rob Hamilton
MIAMI — The game had all the earmarks of low-stakes September baseball, with a small crowd and two spot starters in a matchup of first- and last-place teams.
Bring on Freddy Garcia.
The well-traveled 36-year-old right-hander earned his second NL victory since 2007, and his first since he joined the Atlanta Braves last month, pitching six innings to help beat the Miami Marlins 6-1 on Thursday.
“Freddy wore the MVP pants today,” teammate Freddie Freeman said. “What he did was pretty awesome.”
Freeman had three hits on his 24th birthday, including his 20th home run. Chris Johnson also had three hits to raise his average to .330.
Garcia (1-1) allowed five hits and one run. What was working for him?
“Everything,” he said with a smile.
“He’s a veteran guy,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He knows how to maneuver himself through a major-league lineup — put a little on it, take a little off and never give you the same look.”
Garcia made his first start for the NL East leaders in place of rookie left-hander Alex Wood, whose turn was skipped to give him a breather. A two-time AL All-Star, Garcia lowered his ERA since joining the Braves to 1.32 in 13 2/3 innings.
He could be valuable in October, when the games become much more important.
“Hopefully I’ll continue to pitch the way I’ve been pitching,” he said. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready for.”
Three relievers completed a seven-hitter. Jordan Walden, who had been sidelined by a groin injury, pitched a scoreless seventh in his first appearance since Aug. 21.
“We wanted to give him an inning and make sure he’s OK,” Gonzalez said. “That’s a big piece we haven’t had. That will take a little burden off some of the other guys we have been using a lot.”
There were no testy encounters less than 24 hours after a…