The Atlanta Braves tried shuffling their rotation to jump start their playoff push, but it hasn’t panned out so far.
They’ll look to bounce back from a frustrating loss Wednesday when they wrap up a three-game series with the last-place Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium.
The Braves (68-65) moved John Smoltz up one day to start Tuesday in order to split him and Tim Hudson in the rotation. The move also lines up Smoltz to pitch against the former teammate Tom Glavine on Sunday when the Braves face the New York Mets.
“It breaks it up, and maybe it’ll save our bullpen,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox told the Braves’ official Web site.
Smoltz and Hudson have been effective at the top of Atlanta’s rotation, but the back end has struggled. Before Lance Cormier earned a win in Monday’s series opener, Buddy Carlyle’s 7-3 win over the Mets on Aug. 7 was the last one by a Braves starter other than Smoltz or Hudson.
However, Smoltz wasn’t able to carry the Braves on Tuesday, as they lost 4-3 in 11 innings to the Marlins (58-75). Pitching on three days’ rest, he gave up three runs in six innings, and Chipper Jones hit a game-tying homer.
But Florida’s Alejandro De Aza drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly, sending Atlanta to its ninth loss in 13 games. The Braves struck out 19 times against the Marlins, who have the worst record in the NL and won for just the second time in 14 games.
“Strikeouts are part of the game,” said Atlanta’s Andruw Jones, who struck out three times. “Sometimes guys are going to strike out 20 guys in a game and sometimes you won’t strike out anybody. So it is just one of those things.”
Still, catcher Brian McCann hit a solo homer after his second grand slam in eight days in the opener. McCann is batting .302 (13-for-43) with five homers and 15 RBIs in his last 10 games.
The Braves also remained six games behind the NL East-leading Mets, who lost to second-place Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The change in their rotation means that the Braves will hand the ball to Carlyle (7-5, 5.00 ERA), who was originally scheduled to pitch Tuesday. He is 0-2 with an 8.79 ERA in his last three starts, each of which the Braves have lost.
Carlyle gave up six runs in five innings of the Braves’ 9-7, 12-inning loss in Cincinnati on Thursday. He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three career starts against the Marlins, including two this season.
The Marlins counter with Dontrelle Willis (8-13, 4.96), who is 1-10 with a 5.06 ERA over his last 16 starts. He gave up five runs in 7 2-3 innings of Friday’s 5-3 loss in Cincinnati.
“I thought he pitched good,” Florida rookie manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Marlins’ official Web site. “Just a couple of mistakes in the middle of the plate a little bit, and the balls were hit out. Like every night, he gives us every opportunity to win.”
Willis will be trying to improve his fortunes at home, where he is 3-8 with a 5.32 ERA in 15 starts.
He has won his last four decisions against the Braves and has not lost to them in seven starts since a 9-1 home loss on May 11, 2006, in which he was pounded for seven runs in 2 2-3 innings. He is 6-4 with a 4.67 ERA in 17 career starts against Atlanta, including 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA in three this season.
Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur, who struck out five times Tuesday, is batting .385 (10-for-26) with four homers all-time against Willis.
Willis and Carlyle also squared off on July 1 in Florida’s 6-5 win in 10, but their outings were shortened by a rain delay. Willis threw four scoreless innings, and Carlyle went three frames without allowing a run.
Jeremy Hermida homered Tuesday for the Marlins and is batting .415 (17-for-41) with four homers in his last 11 games.