He wound up leaving Fort Bragg Field with the memory of a lifetime -- a victory in front of thousands of cheering troops.
Conley pitched six strong innings and the Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 5-2 on Sunday night in a game played in a temporary ballpark on a U.S. Army post.
"I know, for me, this has been my favorite place to ever pitch in my life," Conley said. "This is the most memorable place I've ever pitched. ... An absolute honor that it falls on my day and that I get to start here."
Martin Prado added an RBI single in the seventh to help the wild card-contending Marlins earn a split of the four-game series and win the first regular-season game -- in any sport -- held at an active military installation.
This game was played at a ballpark built from scratch in less than four months at the sprawling Army post that's home to 55,000 service members, including the famed paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Conley (5-5) allowed four hits in the Marlins' best outing by a starter in a week. In Miami's previous five games, each starter allowed at least four earned runs and none finished the sixth.
Matt Wisler (3-8) had six strikeouts for the Braves, giving him 15 in his last two starts, but he allowed three earned runs in six-plus innings.
"It was just, two strikes, he couldn't put a guy away," interim Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Realmuto led off the ninth with a towering homer to center field off reliever Tyrell Jenkins to put the Marlins up 5-0.
They pulled within 1 1/2 games of the NL's second wild card and improved to 4-8 against the last-place Braves -- a mark that's still their worst against an NL East opponent. Two of those wins belong to Conley, who threw eight innings in a 3-0 win over Atlanta on June 22 in Miami.
In a joint effort from Major League Baseball and the players' association, an overgrown golf course was cleared out and transformed into a major league-caliber field surrounded by temporary stands that were packed by 12,582 service members -- most of whom cheered and chopped for the local favorite Braves.
"The bad part is, we lost the game," Snitker said. "The good part is, it's something I'll never forget the rest of my life."
Looking rather comfortable in such a setting, Wisler breezed through the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a triple off the fence in center, then scored two batters later on Realmuto's single to right that fell in front of a diving Nick Markakis. Prado then singled to center and Yelich followed with his RBI single to right that scored Realmuto.
Prado made it 3-0 with his RBI single in the seventh and Yelich added a run-scoring sacrifice fly off Jenkins an inning later.
HE SAID IT
Earlier in the day, players from both teams took part in several military activities, including a parachute-packing exercise and some special operations that Pierzynski was asked about.
His response: "We're not allowed to tell you. We'll have to kill you." (He was joking.)
HE DID IT
New Marlins reliever Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect eighth, then did a hands-on-his-hips dance as he came off the field and the Rednex song "Cotton Eye Joe" blared on the loudspeaker.
Marlins: 1B Justin Bour was out of the lineup a day after injuring his right ankle on a play at first base.
Braves: IF Gordon Beckham went 2 for 2 with a double in a rehab start late Saturday night with Single-A Carolina, which plays 80 miles northeast of Fort Bragg in Zebulon. Beckham has been out since June 2 with a strained left hamstring.
Braves: RHP Joel De La Cruz (0-1, 4.50 ERA) makes his second career start in the first game of a three-game series at Philadelphia. He gave up three runs in seven innings of a 3-0 loss to Cleveland on June 29.
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