Thirty games remain in the regular season and the Miami Marlins (65-67) sit 5.5 back in the National League wild-card race.
But the ground can be made up with 26 of those contests against NL East rivals, including six of the next nine against the Atlanta Braves (70-64).
Miami concludes its three-city, nine-game trip at Turner Field having dropped series at Colorado and Anaheim. The Braves took two of three from the New York Mets after losing two of three to the Cincinnati Reds last weekend.
The Marlins have won five of the last eight in Atlanta, but have not recorded a winning season there since 2009. In 2014, Miami leads the series 7-6 with a 4-3 record on the road.
Right-hander Tom Koehler opens the series on Friday having pitched six or more innings in four of his last five starts. In a no-decision vs. Colorado on Saturday, he allowed three runs on eight hits over seven frames. Koehler had won his previous two decisions. Righty Ervin Santana has picked things up in the second half with a 6-1 record and 2.75 ERA. He took the loss on Saturday despite permitting just one run over seven innings vs. the Reds. The veteran, who was signed to a hefty contract during the spring when two starters underwent Tommy John surgery, is coming through down the stretch.
Jarred Cosart has tossed three straight solid starts since being scratched after his first outing in a Marlins uniform. Over 20 2/3 innings, the righty has given up just two runs on 16 hits. Miami has won each of those appearances. Right-hander Aaron Harang has surrendered three runs or more — as well as seven-plus hits — in each of his last three starts, dropping two of them. He was unable to finish the sixth Sunday against the Reds, nor the fifth on Aug. 14 vs. the Dodgers. In between, he fell two outs shy of a complete game in Pittsburgh.
Righty Nathan Eovaldi continues to struggle on the mound having won just once since June 23. He went a season-low 3 1/3 in Anaheim, surrendering six runs on 10 hits. Miami is 4-12 in his last 16 starts. Southpaw Alex Wood has gone at least six frames in five of his past six starts, including seven innings in four of them. In his previous two, he has allowed five combined runs over 14 innings, allowing just nine hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. Wood lost back-to-back starts to the Marlins in April.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Marlins-Braves series…
LF Christian Yelich (Marlins): Though he went just 1 for 7 over his final at-bats of the Angels series, Yelich’s average is at .290 — its highest since early May. Over his past 10 games he is batting .419 with eight runs, four RBI and seven walks with two stolen bases. His on-base percentage (.375) tops all leadoff batters in the big leagues.
2B Emilio Bonifacio (Braves): The former Marlin went 4 for 5 with a run and two RBI on Thursday. He has a modest four-game hit streak splitting time at second with rookie Tommy La Stella. Two of his three multi-hit games as a Brave have come over the past five days. Justin Upton, who has 13 RBI in his past 10 games, is hitless in his last eight at-bats.
CF Marcell Ozuna (Marlins): Since four straight multi-hit games to close out the last homestand and open the trip, Ozuna is 2 for 16 with a double, an RBI and three strikeouts. Manager Mike Redmond placed him in the cleanup spot in Anaheim, but he collected just one hit and a sacrifice fly.
CF B.J. Upton (Braves): Upton’s struggles forced him out of the leadoff spot. He is hitless since Aug. 19 — a span of five games and 14 at-bats — when he collected two hits against Pittsburgh. Over his past 10 games, Upton is batting .111 with three runs, no homers and an RBI. His .204 average for the season is dangerously close to the Mendoza line.
1,189: Strikeouts by Marlins batters this year, the highest mark in the NL (one more than the Chicago Cubs)
2.70: ERA and 0-1 record for Koehler in three starts against the Braves this season
.986: Fielding percentage for Atlanta, third best in the NL
.059: Average for Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman this season against the Marlins. He is 3 for 51.
"We definitely were tested here. We came out the first night and pitched really well and hit really well. We just weren’t able to do that the last two nights." — Manager Mike Redmond, to reporters in Anaheim, on the Angels series
"The season is not over. We still have a long way to go. I think the offday is coming at a good time for us. It’s a tough roadtrip. Hopefully we can keep above water before we go home and see what happens." — Third baseman Casey McGehee, to reporters in Anaheim, on the club’s playoff chances