Marlins-Braves Preview

The Atlanta Braves have picked the wrong time to be mired in
their longest losing streak of the season.

Hoping to hold onto a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL wild card race
with 14 games remaining, they’ll try to avoid a fifth straight loss
Tuesday night when they host the last-place Florida Marlins.

Atlanta (84-64) dropped its fourth straight game Monday, a 5-4,
12-inning loss to Florida. It was a disappointing result in the
Braves’ first game back at Turner Field following a 2-6 road trip,
though their wild card lead remained the same due to St. Louis’ 6-5
loss in Pittsburgh.

Atlanta hasn’t lost five consecutive games since dropping nine
straight April 21-29, 2010.

“We’re still in a good spot despite coming off a losing road
trip and losing this one the way we did,” Monday’s starter Brandon
Beachy said.

“We should definitely make the playoffs and once that happens we
can regroup and refocus and get things done.”

The Braves had won eight of the previous nine meetings with the
Marlins prior to Monday, though Florida has now won four of its
last six in Atlanta.

Former Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez returned to the Braves’
lineup Monday after missing three games with a sore back and went 3
for 4 with two RBIs, but Beachy allowed four runs and nine hits in
5 1-3 innings in another rough outing for a Braves starter.

Atlanta’s starting rotation has a 5.02 ERA over the last 12
games, with the Braves going 3-9.

Mike Minor (5-2, 4.32 ERA) will be on the hill Tuesday looking
to turn that around. Minor is 4-0 with a 3.58 ERA in his last five
starts, striking out 30 in 27 2-3 innings in that span.

He struggled at times in Thursday’s 6-5 win over the New York
Mets, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings, but he
hasn’t lost in his last nine starts spanning two stints in the
majors, with the Braves winning eight of those games.

The left-hander has made one start against the Marlins, allowing
six runs in four innings of the Braves’ 7-6, 10-inning loss Sept.
5, 2010.

Florida (67-79) has won four straight and seven of its last nine
overall.

Mike Stanton, who has been battling a right hamstring strain for
most of September, had a pinch-hit RBI single in the 12th inning
Monday to give the Marlins the victory.

“If you don’t get the opportunity to play in the playoffs, it’s
fun to see how we can affect the outcome,” shortstop Donnie Murphy
said.

Brad Hand (1-6, 3.91) will take the mound Tuesday as the Marlins
continue trying to play spoiler.

Hand’s record isn’t indicative of how well he’s pitched. The
rookie has allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine of his 10
starts, including Wednesday when he gave up one in six innings but
lost 1-0 to the New York Mets.

It marked the eighth time the Marlins have provided Hand with
two runs or fewer of support. They’ve scored nine runs in his 40
1-3 innings during those contests.

Hand, though, hasn’t done many favors for himself by walking 32
compared to 28 strikeouts. The left-hander has walked at least
three in eight of his outings, including an 8-5 loss to Atlanta on
Aug. 8.

That was Hand’s worst outing to date, as he allowed seven runs
and nine hits in five innings, including a three-run homer to
Gonzalez.