Preview: Marlins close season with 4-game series vs. Braves
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
MIAMI — The Atlanta Braves (71-87) will wrap up their fourth straight losing season this weekend by visiting the Miami Marlins (74-84), who are also out of the playoff race and have clinched their eighth consecutive sub-.500 campaign.
But despite what seems like interminable rebuilding projects for both franchises, some progress was made this season. Some new directions were found.
The Marlins, for example, sold their franchise — news that was made official Wednesday as Jeffrey Loria will hand over the keys to primary investor Bruce Sherman and former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
“Owning the Marlins has been one of singular honors of my life,” Loria said in a statement released by the team. “I’m very proud of our achievements the past 15 years, including bringing a World Series (title), a new ballpark (with a retractable roof), two World Baseball Classics and an All-Star Game to our community.”
Despite those accomplishments, Loria was wildly unpopular with most fans, judging by talk radio, newspaper columns and thousands of empty seats at most Marlins games.
The crowds may or may not return this weekend to watch Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton take aim at his goal of a 61-homer season. Stanton has 57 home runs, none in his past four games.
Perhaps new ownership will have better luck reaching the fans. But, in the meantime, the Marlins still have to play out these final four games against the Braves, who also had a big moment this year when they opened their new stadium, SunTrust Park.
In addition, the Braves have received some outstanding achievements such as the year turned in by center fielder Ender Inciarte, who became the first Atlanta player to reach 200 hits in a season since Marquis Grissom in 1996.
“I’m enjoying this right now because it’s so hard to do,” Inciarte said. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
The Thursday pitching matchup will feature veteran Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (11-12, 4.39 ERA) against Marlins rookie left-hander Dillon Peters (0-2, 6.31).
Teheran, 26, will be making his 32nd start of the season. It is the fifth straight season in which he has made at least 30 starts, and he has won 57 games during that span.
In 16 career starts against the Marlins, he is 6-4 with a 3.25 ERA. He has been even better in eight starts at Marlins Park, going 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA. In his lone start against the Marlins this year, he allowed three hits in six scoreless innings.
Teheran has also been hot overall lately, going 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his past six starts.
Peters, who has never faced the Braves, pitched seven scoreless innings in his major league debut Sept. 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies. He has allowed 18 runs in 18 2/3 innings since.
In his most recent start, at Arizona on Saturday, Peters fooled no one, getting no swinging strikes on his 77 pitches.
“It has been a big learning experience for me, physically and mentally, about how different the game is at this level,” Peters told Fox Sports Florida. “A lot of this information I can use for next year. When the season is over, I can break it down and get back to work.”
On Thursday, Peters hopes to get offensive support, and that starts with Stanton, who leads the majors in homers. He needs three long balls to become the sixth major-leaguer to reach 60 homers in a single season, a list that currently includes Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
Stanton failed to take advantage of Coors Field, going 1-for-12 with a double in the three-game series that ended Wednesday with a 15-9 Miami loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Marlins broadcaster and former major league outfielder Todd Hollandsworth said Stanton is struggling with outside pitches.
“He didn’t get a whole lot to hit,” Hollandsworth said during Fox Sports Florida’s Wednesday telecast. “He’s off on that outer third. He’s searching, and his body language was one of frustration.”