Tied in the standings, the Braves and Marlins continue their pursuit of a playoff berth when they open a key three-game series Friday night at Turner Field.
With defending World Series champion Philadelphia pulling away in the East, its appears Atlanta and Florida’s best chances of making the playoffs is with the wild card. The Braves (64-57) and Marlins (64-57) are each 6 1/2 games back of the surging Phillies, while four behind wild-card leading Colorado.
Atlanta has made an impressive run over the past few weeks to get in this position.
The Braves defeated the New York Mets 3-2 on Thursday for their 11th win in 15 games, improving to 30-17 since falling a season-worst six games below .500 on June 27.
“You got to win series and keep going,” manager Bobby Cox said. “Hopefully the teams in front of us lose one of these days.”
Brian McCann(notes) homered in his second straight game Thursday, giving him three in five contests, but he hasn’t had much success against Florida lately. The four-time All-Star is batting .143 with one home run and three RBIs in six games versus the Marlins this season and is 3 for 29 (.103) with two home runs and five RBIs in his last 11 home games against them.
The Braves are 3-5 against Florida this year, dropping all three meetings at Turner Field.
The Marlins are coming off Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Houston, their second straight defeat after winning nine of 11.
Florida’s efficient offense was cooled off Thursday, finishing with four hits after recording at least 10 in its previous 15 games, the best stretch since the St. Louis Browns had one that long in 1937.
Despite a poor offensive showing by the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez(notes) extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. The two-time All-Star shortstop is batting .444 with two home runs and 13 RBIs during his run, but is 0 for 6 with four strikeouts lifetime versus Javier Vazquez(notes) (10-8, 2.99 ERA), who is set to take the ball for Atlanta in the opener.
Vazquez allowed four runs and six hits - including two homers - with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday after going 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his previous seven outings. It was the right-hander’s first loss since a 1-0 defeat to Boston on June 27.
Vazquez, second in the NL with 178 strikeouts, is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season and hasn’t defeated them since May 20, 2003, with Montreal, a span of seven starts.
Sanchez hasn’t pitched for Florida since leaving his start against Milwaukee on June 2 after three innings because of a right shoulder sprain. That was his first start since May 7 after spending nearly four weeks on the DL because of a sprained shoulder.
Sanchez made two solid rehab starts for Double-A Jacksonville, yielding three runs over 10 1-3 innings.
Shoulder problems have limited Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter in September 2006, to seven starts this season. He earned his lone victory at Atlanta on April 16, allowing two runs in six innings of a 6-2 win. The right-hander wasn’t as sharp against the Braves three weeks later, giving up four runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss May 7.