Marlins' Josh Johnson set to battle Braves

BY foxsports • September 26, 2012

Having clinched a playoff spot, the Atlanta Braves don't have to worry about another late-season collapse now.

The Braves look to win their fourth straight Wednesday night when they continue their series against the Miami Marlins.

Freddie Freeman hit a two-run, walk-off homer Tuesday, giving Atlanta a 4-3 win and at least an NL wild-card berth. The victory also pulled the club within four games of Washington for first place in the East.

The Braves (89-65) equaled their win total from last season, when they blew an 8 1/2-game lead in the wild-card standings in the final month after finishing September 9-18.

"They took the attitude last year to try and hang on," Chipper Jones said. "This year we took the bull by the horns. We're shooting for the stars. We're still shooting for the division until they close us out."

With Freeman's homer - his second in three games and career-high 22nd - Atlanta doesn't have to be concerned with a repeat. The Braves have won 15 of 21, with their staff recording a 2.60 ERA over that span.

That number shrinks to 2.19 in 16 games this season against Miami, helping Atlanta to 12 wins.

Freeman has also been instrumental in that success versus the Marlins, hitting .309 (17 of 55) with 12 RBIs. He's 12 for 24 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last six home games against them.

Paul Maholm (12-10, 3.85 ERA) will try to extend Atlanta's winning streak as he takes the mound Wednesday.

Maholm, who is 7-3 with a 3.30 ERA at home, allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Miami on Sept. 18.

That was the left-hander's second strong outing against the Marlins this year. He surrendered one run in eight innings of a 4-2 victory July 19.

While Atlanta can begin its postseason preparations, Miami (66-88) will try to end a five-game skid during which it has scored 11 runs.

Mike Dunn was charged with his fifth blown save in six chances Tuesday. Regular closer Steve Cishek has not seen action since Sept. 18, when he gave up three runs in one-third of an inning against Atlanta.

Manager Ozzie Guillen has had his share of problems with the bullpen this week. On Tuesday he spoke out after Heath Bell, who opened the season as the team's closer, criticized the manager on a local radio show.

"I laughed," Guillen said of Bell's comments. "I have so (many) problems in my life with the ballclub, to see why we failed - comments like that, everybody has his own opinion."

Guillen will hand the ball to Josh Johnson (8-13, 3.84) on Wednesday.

Johnson has lost his last two starts and is 1-6 in his last eight. The Marlins have averaged 2.3 runs of support during that eight-game span.

The right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in six innings of a 3-0 loss to Atlanta last Wednesday.

Johnson is 1-2 against the Braves this year despite a 2.29 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 2-3 innings. He has a 2.29 ERA in 19 career appearances against Atlanta, including 1.49 on the road.