If the Atlanta Braves had figured out how to win on the road a little earlier this season, there might be a four-team race atop the NL East.
With a good showing on the rest of their current trip, they could soon start thinking about climbing up the standings.
The Braves will look to extend their season-best road winning streak to four games on Tuesday when they continue their series against the Florida Marlins.
Atlanta (47-52) won just seven of its first 31 road games, and has been shut out eight times en route to a 16-32 road mark—tied for the third-worst road record in the majors.
The Braves are 9-8 in their last 17 games outside of Georgia, however, winning their third straight on the road for the first time this year with Monday’s 4-0 win at Florida.
The effort was a stark contrast to Sunday’s 15-6 loss to Washington at Turner Field, where Atlanta has dropped 12 of its last 18.
“(Sunday) those Little Leaguers from Columbus (Ga.) who won the World Series could have beat us,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “(Monday) was as solid a game as we have played from first pitch to the end of the ninth inning.”
Led by seven strong innings from Jorge Campillo, Atlanta pitchers gave up just two hits to the Marlins, lowering their road ERA since June 13 to 2.79— the best in baseball over that span.
In large part due to their road woes, the Braves are six games behind Philadelphia and the New York Mets, who are tied for the NL East lead. After two more games in Miami, the Braves visit the Phillies for a three-game set.
“We need to do something on this trip and get it going, and tonight was a great start,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Florida (52-47) could have gained a share of the division lead with a win Monday, but remained one game back.
The Marlins lost for just the fourth time in their last 12 games and were shut out for only the second time since April 17, when they lost 8-0 to the Braves. Atlanta is the only team that has blanked them twice this year.
Florida still hasn’t lost back-to-back home games against NL opponents since a three-game sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers from April 29-May 1.
In hopes of avoiding that fate, it will turn to Rick VandenHurk, the Dutch right-hander who hasn’t pitched in the majors since the first week of the season. In two April starts—beginning the season as the Marlins’ No. 2 starter — VandenHurk (0-1, 11.81 ERA) pitched only 5 1-3 innings, allowing seven runs and 12 hits.
He made 18 appearances—17 starts—for Florida last year, compiling a 6.83 ERA. He has spent most of this season at Double-A Carolina, where he posted a 4.23 ERA in 10 starts.
The Braves will counter with rookie Charlie Morton, who is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three road starts since he was called up in mid-June.
Morton (2-2, 5.93) is coming off perhaps the best outing of his young career, as he gave up one run in 5 1-3 innings at San Diego on July 12. He earned his first victory since his major league debut as the Braves beat San Diego 4-1.
Atlanta, which has won five of the last six between the teams, leads the season series 6-4.