Red-hot Braves aim to spoil Marlins

MIAMI — Atlanta Braves right-hander Aaron Blair and Miami Marlins left-hander Wei-Yin Chen are looking for redemption for seasons gone terribly wrong.

They will face each other on Saturday when the Braves (63-91) take on the Marlins (76-78). Even though the Braves are in last place, they are one of the hotter teams in baseball, having won seven games in a row for their best win streak in two years.

Blair, a 24-year-old from Las Vegas who played his college ball at Marshall, was acquired by the Braves in December in the deal that sent star pitcher Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamonbacks.

The Braves also got shortstop Dansby Swanson and center fielder Ender Inciarte back as part of that deal.

Swanson and Inciarte have worked out well so far, but Blair (1-6, 7.71 ERA) has been a disaster.

Blair started the season ranked No. 4 among Braves prospects, and he made his major league debut on April 24.

But Blair, after making 11 starts and going 0-5 with a 7.99 ERA, was sent back down to Triple-A Gwinnett on June 25. While in the minors, Blair injured his knee and didn't pitch well there, either, sporting a 5.98 ERA.

The Braves, though, gave him another chance, and — on Sept. 19 against the New York Mets — Blair finally earned his first major league victory, allowing just two runs in six innings.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said Blair changed his delivery, an improvement that led to victory.

“All the work he put in, making changes, it's nice to see that being rewarded,” Snitker told the media after his win.

In essence, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell worked to keep Blair more upright during his delivery. By eliminating a turn in his motion, Blair kept his weight on his back leg longer, and that has made a difference.

“Giving up a run per inning wasn't great,” Blair said, exaggerating only slightly his poor performances this season. “I was open to any changes.”

Chen, a 31-year-old native of Taiwan, may want to make some adjustments as well because he is just 5-4 with a 5.04 ERA this season.

Much more was expected from Chen when the Marlins signed him to a five-year, $80 million contract.

He was supposed to be the Marlins' second-best pitcher behind Jose Fernandez, but he hasn't been.

He was supposed to be a fly-ball pitcher who benefits from the spacious dimensions at Marlins Park, but that hasn't been the case either.

His numbers were really good the past two years with the Baltimore Orioles — 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 2014 and 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA in 2015.

The expectation was that those numbers would get even better in a big ballpark and in a league with no designated hitter. Chen figured to have the element of unfamiliarity to his advantage since few NL batters had faced him consistently as had their AL counterparts.

None of those theories worked, however, and Chen also missed two months due to an elbow injury. He returned on Monday against the Washington Nationals, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings.

“I felt pretty good overall,” Chen said. “But in the fifth inning, I couldn't get outs.”

He will need to do so on Saturday as the Marlins' extremely remote playoff chances are hanging by a thread.