Marlins head home to face Braves

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

The Atlanta Braves just squandered a great chance to move closer to the top of the NL East, but they're still in a good spot.

The Miami Marlins, meanwhile, haven't been in a worse position all season.

Atlanta goes for a fourth straight victory at Miami on Monday night when the Marlins try to avoid a season high-tying sixth straight defeat.

After back-to-back wins over Washington moved them within 1 1/2 games of the division lead, the Braves (52-43) left the nation's capital Sunday in the same place they arrived - 3 1/2 behind the East-leading Nationals.

"We're right back where we started," Chipper Jones said following a 9-1 defeat. "Now it's time to hopefully make up ground while we're playing in separate cities."

Atlanta, percentage points behind Pittsburgh for the wild-card lead, now takes its major league-best 28-19 road record to Miami, where it has won 10 of 12 following a three-game sweep June 5-7.

Monday's scheduled starter Mike Minor (5-6, 5.69 ERA) worked around five walks in the finale of that series, allowing one run in five innings in an 8-2 win.

The left-hander went 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in his last three starts in June, and was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, but he's bounced back nicely in two July starts, posting a 1-0 record with a 2.19 ERA.

"I think this is his second outing that was pretty decent for him," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves' official website after Minor fanned seven and yielded just one run in six innings of Wednesday's 9-4, 11-inning loss to San Francisco. "He goes into the (All-Star) break feeling good about himself and maybe come out the other end with some momentum."

The Marlins' momentum is heading in the wrong direction after falling a season-high seven games below .500 with a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday that ended a 1-5 trip.

Miami (44-51) has plated seven runs during its skid.

"Really, we can't get anything done on offense," manager Ozzie Guillen told the Marlins' official website.

That doesn't bode well for Josh Johnson (5-7, 4.35), who is 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA in three July starts after giving up seven earned runs in five outings last month.

The right-hander was tagged for four runs in his last outing, a 5-1 road loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

"I just didn't come through for the team," said Johnson, who'll try to avoid losing a career worst-tying three starts for the first time since June 18-29, 2007.

Despite a 1.42 ERA in his last six starts against the Braves, Johnson is 1-2 in that span after striking out a season high-tying nine in a 2-1 loss June 6.

Braves catcher Brian McCann went 3 for 4 with a double off the right-hander in that contest but was hitless in eight other at-bats during that series.

Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes will try to extend his team-best hitting streak to 11. He's 4 for 10 with a homer and a triple off Minor.

Logan Morrison is 3 for 7 with a home run, triple and a double against the left-hander, but he's hitless in 16 at-bats against Braves pitching in 2012.

It's doubtful Minor will face Hanley Ramirez, who is expected to miss a fourth consecutive game with a hand infection.

These division rivals play seven times in their next 10 games.

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