Marlins-Braves Preview

After struggling mightily in April, Miami’s offense is clicking

and the Marlins are piling up wins.

Their suddenly potent lineup will be put to the test in Thursday

night’s two-game series finale against the Atlanta Braves, who will

give the ball to major league ERA leader Brandon Beachy.

With Wednesday’s 8-4 victory over the Braves, Miami (20-17)

improved to 12-3 in May and moved three games above .500 for the

first time. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer while Austin

Kearns and Emilio Bonifacio also drove in two runs apiece for the

Marlins, who are 9-1 on the road this month.

Miami’s offense has keyed the turnaround in May, averaging 4.7

runs and batting .255. Miami scored 3.3 runs per game and batted

.228 in April.

“The difference this month is we get big hits because we’re

pitching the same,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.

The Marlins made quick work of Atlanta starter Mike Minor on

Wednesday, knocking him around for six runs in 4 2-3 innings. The

beating wasn’t surprising considering Minor’s 7.09 ERA is the

highest among NL qualifiers.

Generating offense figures to be much more difficult against

Beachy (4-1, 1.60 ERA), who has yielded two runs or fewer in each

of his last six starts.

Beachy is limiting opponents to a .181 batting average on the

season and has served up just one homer in 45 innings, but he has

had some recent control trouble. The right-hander walked four in

six innings in St. Louis on Saturday after issuing three free

passes in 6 1-3 innings against Colorado on May 6.

Despite the command issues, Beachy limited the Cardinals to one

run and two hits in a 7-2 Braves victory.

Beachy went 1-0 in four inconsistent starts against the Marlins

last season, posting a 1.29 ERA in two of them but a 7.59 ERA in

the other two.

Stanton, who is 3 for 8 with two doubles lifetime against

Beachy, hit his team-leading eighth homer Wednesday and possibly

saved two runs with a sensational diving catch to end the fourth

inning with runners on second and third.

With the Braves (23-15) in the middle of a stretch of 33 games

in 34 days, manager Fredi Gonzalez shuffled his lineup Wednesday,

resting Chipper Jones and giving Michael Bourn – the NL hits leader

with 55 – his first day off this season. Both are expected to back

Thursday to face Miami starter Ricky Nolasco (4-1, 3.65), who is

hoping to bounce back from a subpar showing.

Nolasco was tagged for season highs of six runs and nine hits in

a season-low 4 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 9-3 home defeat to the New

York Mets. The right-hander had been 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his

previous three outings – all on the road.

Nolasco has had some problems pitching at Turner Field lately,

going 1-2 with a 6.97 ERA in his last four starts there. He was 1-1

with a 4.41 ERA in five overall starts versus the Braves last

season.

Several Atlanta hitters have given Nolasco trouble. Jones is

batting .357 with nine extra-base hits in 42 career at-bats, Brian

McCann is hitting .340 with six homers in 47 at-bats, and Jason

Heyward and Dan Uggla are each 5 for 13.