Miami looks to end rough stretch vs. Braves

BY foxsports • September 18, 2012

The Atlanta Braves' magic number to clinch an NL wild-card spot is down to seven. Considering they have five more dates versus the Miami Marlins, that figure likely will continue decreasing.

Atlanta looks to beat Miami for the 11th time in 14 games in 2012 when the teams continue their series Tuesday night in south Florida.

The Braves held a sizable advantage in the wild-card standings at this point in 2011, only to falter down the stretch and finish one game behind eventual World Series champion St. Louis.

It doesn't appear Atlanta (85-63) will repeat that misfortune. The Braves lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by 8 1/2 games with 14 to play after beating Miami 7-5 in Monday's series opener.

Martin Prado went 4 for 4 filling in for the resting Chipper Jones, and ex-Marlin Dan Uggla hit a three-run homer in the first before playing solid in the field for the Braves, who have won four straight after sweeping NL East-leading Washington over the weekend.

"Danny saved us defensively," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose club trails Washington by five games for the division lead. "Here's a guy that gets a bad rap at times defensively, and he saved the game for us today making a bunch of plays."

Uggla is hitting only .214 and is on pace for the worst average of his career, but he has 13 RBIs in 12 games against his former team this season.

"The fans here, I had a great relationship with them," Uggla said. "It's always fun to come back and play in front of them."

The rest of the Braves don't seem to mind playing there, either. They've won six of seven meetings while outscoring Miami 40-14 at new Marlins Park.

Atlanta will send Paul Maholm to the mound Tuesday seeking its second five-game winning streak this month.

Maholm (12-10, 3.90 ERA) is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA over his last five starts after going 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his first three for the Braves after being acquired from the Cubs prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.

The left-hander gave up a season-worst eight runs in 4 1-3 innings of Wednesday's 8-2 loss to Milwaukee, allowing all of them in the fifth.

Maholm, though, had one of his better starts of the season versus the Marlins, allowing one run in eight innings of a 4-2 victory July 19 while pitching for the Cubs.

He'll face a Miami team which has dropped five of seven and played Monday without Giancarlo Stanton due to a strained side muscle.

Stanton, whose 34 homers are eight shy of Gary Sheffield's team record set in 1996, hopes to be in the lineup Tuesday.

"We're going to go by ear to see how he feels in the next couple of days, and from that we'll make a decision when he's playing," manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Nathan Eovaldi will oppose Maholm, looking to end a rough stretch of his own.

Eovaldi (4-12, 4.71) has dropped his last four starts with a 7.58 ERA after allowing five runs and eight hits in four innings of last Tuesday's 9-7 loss to Philadelphia.

"I fell behind in counts and was missing with my fastball," Eovaldi said. "Overall, not a good outing."

The right-hander also pitched poorly against the Braves on Aug. 2, giving up six runs and eight hits in a career-worst two innings of a 6-1 loss.

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