Kawakami has one win in 15 starts and has made one appearance in the majors in two months, but the NL East leaders could use a quality return from the right-hander Friday night in South Florida as they open a three-game set against the Florida Marlins.
Atlanta (78-56) followed a four-game losing streak with five straight wins - two against Florida last weekend and its first three against the Mets at Turner Field this week.
Even with Tim Hudson(notes) pitching, the Braves couldn’t finish off a sweep of New York on Thursday. Hudson gave up four runs over seven innings while Atlanta - which averaged 8.2 runs in its previous five games - struggled to hit Johan Santana(notes) and the Mets bullpen in a 4-2 loss.
“Huddy pitched fine,” manager Bobby Cox said. “We just really didn’t hit the ball tonight.”
After Philadelphia won 12-11 at Colorado, the Braves saw their division lead dwindle to two games.
Kawakami (1-9, 4.75 ERA) knows all about Atlanta’s occasional offensive struggles, as he’s gotten an average of 3.39 runs of support in his 15 starts. The Japanese right-hander was relegated to the bullpen in July and sent to Triple-A Gwinnett last month, where he went 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA in five starts.
Kawakami is 1-4 with a 5.55 ERA in five games - four starts - against Florida (67-65), and Dan Uggla(notes) has been a continued source of trouble. The Marlins second baseman is 4 for 9 with a homer and three walks off Kawakami.
Florida likely needs to sweep Atlanta if it has designs on remaining in the wild-card race.
While the Marlins are eight games behind the Phillies, Edwin Rodriguez’s club hardly appears to be packing it in. Wes Helms’(notes) five-RBI night in a 16-10 win over Washington on Wednesday was overshadowed by a wild brawl after pitcher Chris Volstad(notes) threw behind Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan(notes).
“It definitely gets you pumped up,” Helms told the Marlins’ official website. “It is bad to say, but fighting does get your intensity going. Tonight’s emotions were so high on the field, by the way we hit the ball and played, it can carry over to the series with the Braves. Hopefully, it will pump us up.”
Like Kawakami, Andrew Miller(notes) (0-0, 4.50) will be filling in for a regular member of Florida’s rotation. Ricky Nolasco(notes) is set to undergo surgery next week on a torn meniscus in his right knee, and is done for the season.
Miller has spent most of the season in Double-A Jacksonville, where he’s struggled mightily. He posted a 6.01 ERA in 18 starts, walking 61 in 85 1-3 innings.
Miller has made two relief appearances and a start with the Marlins since being called up Aug. 19, including a tough outing against Atlanta on Saturday. Miller relieved Nolasco and surrendered four runs, five hits and four walks over three innings.