After being swept by the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital, the Miami Marlins will conclude a six-game road trip against division rival and the best team in the National League, the Atlanta Braves. The teams will meet for three games at Turner Field beginning on Friday.
With a 49-83 record, the Marlins enter the series in last place in the National League East and with the worst record in the entire NL. Miami has been reeling of late losing eight of its last nine while scoring two runs or fewer on five occasions during that span. Four of the Marlins’ last five losses however, have come by one run.
Off a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta is baseball’s first 80-win team as they enter the series in first place in the NL East with an 81-52 record. Alex Wood, Kris Medlen and Paul Maholm each gave the Braves solid starts in their most recent series against Cleveland. The Braves won the middle game of the series on Wednesday in walk-off fashion as Chris Johnson delivered a RBI single in the ninth to give Atlanta a 3-2 victory.
The Braves have managed to play great baseball despite a myriad of injuries. Starting pitcher Brandon Beachy is on the disabled list as is outfielder Jason Heyward while another Braves’ starter, Tim Hudson, is done for the season.
Reasons for Atlanta’s success can be attributed to offseason acquisition Chris Johnson, who is second in the N.L. with a .329 batting average and closer Craig Kimbrel, who leads all of baseball with 43 saves. As a staff, the Braves have the best ERA in all of baseball at 3.17.
For Miami, mustering up offense is and has been a struggle all season long. Miami is last among the 30 teams in runs, batting average and OPS. One of the hotter Marlins of late however, has been outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano was in an 0-for-42 slump, a franchise record, just over two weeks ago, but is hitting .438 with three home runs and eight RBIs in his last 10 games.
Miami’s series with Atlanta will feature three pitching match-ups of great young arms headlined by Friday’s game as Marlins’ All-Star Jose Fernandez and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran each look for their 11th victory. Since the start of May, Fernandez has the best ERA in baseball and since the All-Star break, Fernandez is 5-0 in eight starts with a 1.88 ERA. In August, Fernandez’s ERA is a mere 0.82, but with an innings limit of 170 for the season, Friday may be the next-to-last start for Fernandez.
The series will mark Miami’s last trip to Atlanta this season. The Braves and Marlins will meet one more time however as Atlanta comes to South Florida in less than two weeks. The weekend series at Turner Field will have three different first pitch times. The teams will start at 7:30 P.M. EST on Friday and 7:10 on Saturday before a rare 5:00 start on Sunday.
Atlanta leads 8-4. Atlanta has doubled up on Miami in the season series, but surprisingly, the Marlins have played the Braves much better at Turner Field than at Marlins Park. The Braves took two of three when the teams last met earlier this month, but the lone Miami victory, a 1-0 contest in which the first run wasn’t scored until the ninth inning, snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Braves and a six-game skid for the Marlins. The teams are an even 3-3 at Turner Field this year.
Friday – Jose Fernandez (MIA) 10-5, 2.30 ERA vs. Julio Teheran (ATL) 10-7, 3.08 ERA
Saturday – Jacob Turner (MIA) 3-5, 3.12 vs. Mike Minor (ATL) 13-5, 2.99 ERA
Sunday – Nathan Eovaldi (MIA) 2-5, 3.76 ERA vs. Alex Wood (ATL) 3-2, 2.27 ERA