Three short years ago, the Atlanta Braves won their 11th consecutive division title and were a dominant force in the NL. In their third season as a rebuilding franchise, the Braves are now reduced to playing the role of spoiler.
They look to continue damaging the Florida Marlins’ playoff hopes Wednesday by beating them for the fourth time in a week.
Trailing the New York Mets by 18 games for the NL East lead, the Braves (60-79) will miss their third consecutive postseason. However, they can make sure teams like the Marlins (70-69) are also home for October.
Atlanta took two of three games from Florida at home last week, and are on the verge of replicating that feat at Miami after out-slugging winning 16-14 on Tuesday. The slugfest featured 36 hits - 15 going for extra bases - and dropped third-place Florida eight games behind the Mets.
“If you’re going to play one of those, it’s best to come out on top,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We couldn’t stop them one inning. Luckily, they couldn’t stop us either.”
The Braves, who lost the opener of this series 4-3 on Monday, are expected to be without Chipper Jones for a second consecutive game after he was scratched from Tuesday’s contest due to a twisted right knee suffered during infield practice.
The All-Star third baseman, who is hitting .358 with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs, also missed Sunday’s 8-4 loss at Washington because of congestion.
Atlanta will likely replace Jones again with Omar Infante, who went 4-for-6 with two RBIs and three runs Tuesday, but also committed two throwing errors in Florida’s three-run first inning.
Infante has been on a tear of late, going 11-for-23 (.478) with three doubles, five RBIs and nine runs scored in his last five games. He’s hitting .364 (12-for-33) with six RBIs and 10 runs scored in nine career games against the Marlins.
Florida rookie Chris Volstad (4-3, 3.20 ERA) will take the ball seeking his first win in four starts.
The 21-year-old right-hander is 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA in his last three outings - all losses for the Marlins.
He was impressive Friday, though, yielding one run and five hits with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to New York.
“I felt good, I battled through the first couple of innings and I started pitching well later in the game,” Volstad told the Marlins’ official Web site.
Volstad lost his only previous start against the Braves on July 21, getting reached for three runs and six hits in six innings of a 4-0 defeat.
The Braves will turn to Jorge Campillo (7-7, 3.61), who is 0-3 with a 7.97 ERA over his last four starts. Prior to that stretch, the right-hander went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six outings, including a victory over Florida opposite Volstad on July 21, when he struck out six in seven two-hit innings.
Campillo wasn’t nearly as effective Friday, giving up five runs and eight hits, and three walks in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss at Washington.
“I missed a lot of my spots. That’s the problem with me. I can’t miss my spots,” he said.