Miami (65-63) at Atlanta (74-55)

Cloudy Currently: Atlanta, GA
Temp: 39° F
  • Game info: 1:35 pm EDT Sun Aug 29, 2010
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A strong outing from their No. 1 starter and an even better effort at the plate helped the Atlanta Braves even their three-game set with the Florida Marlins.

Suddenly, Florida can’t feel particularly confident that its ace can slow anyone down.

Josh Johnson(notes) tries to put a subpar August behind him in his final start of the month, Sunday afternoon’s critical series finale at Turner Field as the Marlins look to avoid falling 9 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta.

The Braves (74-55) had lost four consecutive games after falling 7-1 in their series opener Friday against Chris Volstad(notes) and Florida (65-63), but they fared much better Saturday against Ricky Nolasco(notes).

Atlanta tagged the right-hander for six runs in two innings, riding a career-high five RBIs from Martin Prado(notes) and a career-best 13-strikeouts from Tim Hudson(notes) to a 12-3 victory.

“I’m trying to find the best way to swing the bat,” said Prado, who’s playing with a broken right pinkie finger. “I guess I’m going to have good days and bad days. I had one of those good nights. Even better, we got the win.”

The Braves maintained their two-game division lead over second-place Philadelphia and jumped 8 1/2 up on Florida, which can likely abandon any postseason hopes if Johnson (11-5, 2.36 ERA) can’t reverse his recent struggles.

The right-hander came into August with a major league-best 1.72 ERA and an impressive case for the NL Cy Young Award, but he’s fallen back to the pack in five starts this month.

After lasting at least six innings for 19 straight starts, Johnson has failed to record 18 outs three times in August. He fell to 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA on the month after surrendering four runs over five innings Tuesday against the Mets, leaving without a decision in a 6-5 loss.

“I’m just not getting deep into the game,” Johnson told the Marlins’ official website. “You can be effectively wild, or whatever you want to call it, and still get deep into the game. To only go five innings, you put your bullpen in a tough spot.”

Johnson is 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 13 games - 12 starts - against Atlanta. He gave up one run over six innings and struck out eight in a 4-3, 11-inning loss at Turner Field on July 2.

The Braves counter with Derek Lowe(notes) (11-12, 4.33), who’s lost his last three starts despite a 3.79 ERA. Two homers hurt him Tuesday at Colorado, where he gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings of a 5-2 defeat.

“I saw a lot of baserunners and I minimized the damage,” Lowe told the Braves’ official website. “All in all tonight could have been a lot worse. I worked out of trouble.”

The right-handed sinkerballer is 1-0 with a 7.01 ERA in five starts against Florida over the past three seasons. Though he’s faced the Marlins just once in 2010, he’s a woeful 1-8 with a 4.86 ERA in 11 starts within the division.

The Marlins’ middle infielders typically give Lowe trouble. Dan Uggla(notes) is 10 for 26 (.385) with two homers in their matchups, while Hanley Ramirez(notes) is 12 for 24 with six doubles.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Johnson SD vs. D. Lowe Tex
11-6 Record 16-12
2.30 ERA 4.00
186 K 136
48 BB 61
1.11 WHIP 1.37


Sunday, Aug 29