Marlins-Braves Preview


Sitting comfortably atop the NL East, the Atlanta Braves know better than to overlook the last-place Miami Marlins.

Doing so could prove costly with manager Mike Redmond's club playing much better of late.

The Braves try to continue their domination of the visiting Marlins, who aim for a season-high fourth consecutive win in Tuesday night's series opener.

Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer and Brian McCann and Dan Uggla also went deep as Atlanta (48-34) completed a three-game sweep of Arizona with Sunday's 6-2 victory. Winners in five of six overall, the Braves have gone an NL-best 20-6 at home since May 5.

"We couldn't be in a better place, really," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose club is six games ahead of second-place Washington. "We're pitching good and we feel like we haven't swung the bats like we're capable of swinging, so you feel good. It's a good place to be."

The Braves now turn their attention to a Marlins team that's dropped 17 of 20 in the series, including the last seven by a 29-7 margin. Atlanta outscored Miami 13-2 during a three-game road sweep April 8-10.

"Obviously the Marlins are behind us, but we know they're going to come in here and try to spoil," said Freeman, batting .433 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last eight home games versus Miami. "That's what guys that are chugging along are going to do. We're pretty good at home, so hopefully we can keep this going."

While the Marlins (30-51) own the NL's worst record, they've won six of seven and 17 of their last 27. Miami just took three straight from San Diego by a 17-3 margin, including Monday's 4-0 victory.

After hitting a walkoff grand slam in Sunday's 6-2 win, Jeff Mathis stayed hot with two hits and three RBIs. The Marlins haven't won four in a row since June 27-July 1, 2012.

"We're playing really good baseball, and the team feels great," said winning pitcher Jose Fernandez, who struck out 10 in eight innings.

Miami's starters have compiled a 2.45 ERA over the last 14 games.

"We're starting to see the rotation and how good these guys are," Redmond told MLB's official website.

The Marlins will surely be looking for a better performance from Tom Koehler (1-5, 4.78 ERA). The right-hander allowed three runs, four hits and a career-high four walks over four innings - his shortest start of the season - in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Minnesota. He gave up all three runs in the first.

"After a rough start like that, you can either mail it in or fight as long as you can or as long as Red would allow me to go," said Koehler, who's never started against the Braves. "I was disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to get five innings."

Atlanta counters with Kris Medlen (5-7, 3.02), who's 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his last five starts while striking out 28 and walking two in 33 2-3 innings. The right-hander surrendered three runs and seven hits in seven innings last Tuesday in a 4-3 victory at Kansas City.

"You know how stressful it is trying to locate 89 every pitch?" Medlen said. "It's not very fun, but it's a tough skill to do. It's why I'm hanging around."

Medlen has been especially good in six games - four starts - against the Marlins since the start of last year, going 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA. Giancarlo Stanton is 1 for 8 in their matchups, but that hit was a home run. Placido Polanco, meanwhile, is 5 for 8 with a double.