By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Touki Toussaint threw six strong innings in his big league debut, Ronald Acuna hit another leadoff homer and the Atlanta Braves climbed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the NL East, defeating the Miami Marlins 9-1 in the first game of a doubleheader Monday.
Toussaint, a Haitian-American whose appearance was sure to be cheered in an impoverished nation that has never sent a player to the big leagues, surrendered just two hits and escaped his only serious jam in the second inning by limiting the Marlins to a single run.
Toussaint (1-0) was born in Florida but lived in Haiti for about six years. He returned to Florida after his parents split up and became a first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2014.
The right-hander was dealt to the Braves the following year in one of several trades made by Atlanta to bolster its farm system during a massive rebuilding effort.
That effort is paying off this season for the Braves, who were a single percentage point ahead of idle Philadelphia at the beginning of the day and edged a little further in front leading into Game 2. The 22-year-old Toussaint became the third pitching prospect to make his big league debut this season, following Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard.
And then there’s Acuna, who has quickly established himself as a budding star at age 20. He hit his third leadoff homer of the season and the 16th overall with his opposite-field drive into the Braves’ bullpen in the bottom half of the first off Pablo Lopez (2-3).
Acuna added a two-run double in the sixth, highlighting a five-run outburst that turned the game into a rout.
After breezing through the first, Toussaint ran into trouble. Derek Dietrich walked, J.T. Riddle singled and Issac Galloway tied the game with a run-scoring double that left runners at second and third with no outs.
But Toussaint retired Magneuris Sierra on a liner to left — not deep enough to allow Riddle to tag up and score. Yadiel Rivera struck out, and Lopez took a 3-2 fastball for a called third strike that ended the threat.
The Braves went ahead for good on back-to-back doubles by Nick Markakis and Johan Camargo to start the fourth.
Miami 3B Martin Prado went down with another injury. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter after straining his left quadriceps sometime in the first two innings.
It wasn’t clear how Prado was hurt, but he’s played only 53 games this season because of recurring hamstring issues. Last year, he was limited to a career-low 37 games because of injuries.
Miguel Rojas took over at third base.
Marlins: RHP Merandy Gonzalez (2-0, 5.71) was called up from Double-A Jacksonville to make his first major league start in Game 2 of the doubleheader, added to the roster as a 26th player. He made seven relief appearances for Miami this season between stints in the minors. RHP Trevor Richards (3-7, 3.98) gets the nod when the NL East rivals meet again on Tuesday.
Braves: RHP Mike Folytnewciz (9-7, 2.98) was going for his third straight win and looking to match a career high with his 10th win in the nightcap. On Tuesday, the Braves will go with RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-3, 2.83) against the Marlins.