Both star players for the Braves have been out of the lineup the last three games. Atlanta beat Philadelphia in the first two, but lost 2-1 to Florida on Tuesday to open this series.
Chipper Jones has been sidelined by a strained left oblique muscle. He wanted to start Tuesday, but manager Bobby Cox gave him an extra day off.
“My concern is not so much swinging as it is fielding and throwing,” Chipper Jones said. “That’s where it bugs me.”
He’s been on a tear, batting .512 with eight homers and 24 RBIs during his current 20-game hitting streak, but Cox believed he should be cautious with the 12-year veteran.
“I just hate to push him,” Cox said. “I thought it best to wait until (Wednesday).”
Andruw Jones has been nearly as hot despite being bothered by a sore back. He was used as a pinch hitter Tuesday, striking out in the eighth inning.
Cox plans to keep the center fielder out of the lineup Wednesday and possibly for the series finale on Thursday, hoping he’s ready for this weekend’s series against the NL East-leading New York Mets.
“It is bad. It is real bad,” said Andruw Jones, who has six homers and 20 RBIs in his last 11 starts. “It’s hard when you cannot breathe. That’s what it is. It’s right behind my shoulder blade and my lung. When you breathe it just kind of cuts you off.”
Ryan Langerhans did a good impression of the Gold Glover as he started in center field Tuesday, making a leaping catch to rob Josh Willingham of a home run in the ninth inning. Langerhans also ended an 0-for-17 drought with a third-inning single, then doubled and scored Atlanta’s only run in the sixth.
Wilson Betimit started at third base in place of Chipper Jones and went 0-for-4, making him 2-for-17 (.118) over his last four games.
It was just the Braves’ third loss in 12 games and the first time since June 26 they were held to fewer than three runs.
John Smoltz (7-5, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound for Atlanta looking to remain unbeaten since June 13. He’s 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA in his last seven outings.
The 18-year veteran did not get a decision for the ninth time in 21 starts on Friday, allowing three runs and striking out seven in seven innings of Atlanta’s 6-5 loss at Philadelphia. He served up two homers after giving up only one over his previous five starts.
Smoltz is 0-1 in two games against the Marlins this season, giving up six runs in 13 1-3 innings. He is 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 50 career games, including 21 starts, versus Florida.
While Smoltz is clearly Atlanta’s ace, Josh Johnson (8-5, 2.49) has been Florida’s best starter since joining the rotation in May. The rookie right-hander leads the NL in ERA, having surrendered three runs or fewer in all but one of his 14 starts.
The Marlins, though, have scored only nine runs in the four games he’s started this month, and Johnson has gone 1-1. He did not get a decision Thursday as he held Pittsburgh to two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 5-3 defeat.
“That’s what J.J. does. J.J. holds teams down,” Florida manager Joe Girardi said. “He does a lot of things right and he did (them) tonight. Two runs in seven innings, that’s a great outing for our young starters.”
Johnson went 1-0 in two starts against the Braves in May, allowing two earned runs in 11 innings.
He’ll hope Cody Ross can continue his recent power surge. The rookie outfielder provided Florida’s only offense Tuesday with two home runs. Four of his eight homers this season have come in the last six games.