The Braves failed to start the road trip off on a positive note, losing two of three in New York, so they'll try their fortune against the struggling Marlins. That will be a challenge, though, as the Marlins usually play the Braves tough in their home ballpark: the Braves are 22-23 with a 4.28 ERA in Miami since 2006.
The Marlins have lost eight of 10, including their last five in a row and are currently tied with the Braves for second in the NL East. They'll be without Josh Johnson, who was placed on the DL in mid-May with shoulder inflammation. Hanley Ramirez will also be out of action; he was placed on the DL retroactive to May 30 with a strained lower back.
This series also marks the return of Dan Uggla to his old stomping grounds. Braves fans are hoping the return also gives his bat a sorely needed jolt; his .172 batting average is among the worst in the league.
More after the jump.
Tuesday June 7, 7:10 p.m. ET
#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Aug 28, 1986
|2011 - Tommy Hanson||6-4||12||12||0||0||0||0||70.1||51||25||22||6||23||69||2.82||1.05|
Hanson dominated the Marlins in his first home start of the season, shutting them out on four hits over seven innings; he is 4-1 against them overall. He won his last start, a 4-3 victory in Atlanta over San Diego where he allowed two runs on three hits over six innings.
The Marlins drafted Hand in the second round of the 2008 draft and will be starting in Johnson's spot in the rotation. He'll be making his major-league debut after being called up from AA-Jacksonville where he was 7-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 11 starts. Hand features a fastball that tops out around 94 MPH and a curveball with sharp, downward break. He's registered 8.2 K/9 in his four minor-league seasons, but has also issued about four walks per game, so his control may be an issue.
Wednesday June 8, 7:10 p.m. ET
#32 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jun 01, 1973
|2011 - Derek Lowe||3-4||13||13||0||0||0||0||73.0||71||33||33||6||28||59||4.07||1.36|
#47 / Pitcher / Florida Marlins
Dec 13, 1982
|2011 - Ricky Nolasco||4-1||12||12||0||0||0||0||79.0||87||37||35||9||16||65||3.99||1.30|
The Braves have won six of Lowe's last seven starts, but he only has a 1-1 record over that span. Lowe will be making his first start of the year against the Marlins, a team that has frequently given him trouble: he sports a 5.14 ERA in 20 appearances against them despite a 7-4 record.
The Marlins, on the other hand, have lost five of Nolasco's last six starts after winning his previous five in a row; he has also allowed at least four earned runs in three of his last four starts. Despite this, he is still among the league leaders in fewest walks allowed, having issued only 16 in 79 innings. His last start against the Braves was a no-decision April 14, five runs allowed in five innings of Florida's 6-5 win.
Thursday June 9, 7:10 p.m. ET
#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jan 29, 1986
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||7-2||10||10||1||0||0||0||72.0||62||16||14||3||11||44||1.75||1.01|
#41 / Pitcher / Florida Marlins
Sep 23, 1986
|2011 - Chris Volstad||2-5||11||11||0||0||0||0||60.1||70||41||38||10||19||43||5.67||1.48|
Jurrjens turned in another good outing in his last start, but a bullpen (Proctor) meltdown led to his allowing three earned runs in a game for the first time this season and taking the loss. In eight starts against the Marlins, Jurrjens is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 2-1, 2.73 ERA in Miami.
Volstad will be trying to avoid an eighth straight start without a win: he's 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA since his last win April 26. In that stretch, he's allowed seven home runs and 10 total after allowing only 17 home runs all of 2010. The Braves hung Volstad with his first loss of the season April 12, allowing five runs in 4.2 innings.
The injury to Hanley Ramirez means Emilio Bonifacio will be given the bulk of the playing time at shortstop. Ramirez had been struggling this year, hitting .210 and posting an OPS of only .615. He had been 1 for his last 16 before the injury. The Marlins offense has been close to league average overall, posting a .249 team batting average, only six points higher than the Braves. The centerpiece of the Uggla trade, Omar Infante, hasn't been quite the hitting machine he was with the Braves. He's only batting .263, but was 8 for 16 in the Milwaukee series. It seems that the Marlins have, so far, received the better end of the deal.
Logan Morrison missed 21 games between April and May with a foot injury, but punctuated his return with a home run in his first game back. Morrison has been a fearsome presence in the middle of the Marlins lineup, hitting .303 and slugging .535 in 37 games. He, Gaby Sanchez and Mike Stanton all present dangerous threats as all three are slugging over .500. Sanchez is among the league leaders in hitting with a .316 average and Stanton is tied for fourth in the NL with 13 home runs. The biggest surprise, however, is Greg Dobbs. Few, if any, expected Dobbs to be hitting .338 this far into the season; he had never hit higher than .301 in any one full season.
Despite being on the DL, Josh Johnson still leads the league with a 1.64 ERA. Teammate Anibal Sanchez falls just inside the top 10 with a 2.97 ERA. The rest of the starting staff has either been spotty or not good at all, especially Javier Vazquez. The move to Florida hasn't helped him, struggling to a 6.50 ERA in 12 starts. The team's 3.75 ERA is ninth in the NL.
The Marlins bullpen has posted a 3.02 ERA so far in 2011, good for fourth in the NL. Randy Choate and Brian Sanches have been the most effective relievers with Choate posting a 0.93 ERA and allowing only four hits in his 23 appearances. Sanches has posted a 1.82 ERA in games this year. Mike Dunn, the other piece of the Uggla trade, has allowed seven runs in his last seven outings to pump his ERA up to 3.67. He hadn't given up an earned run in 11 April games, but allowed 10 runs in 14 innings in May. Reliever Clay Hensley is currently on the DL with a sprained shoulder.
With the Braves facing a rookie lefty making his debut, and the challenges they usually have playing in Miami, winning two of three is optimistic. The offense needs to heat up, and not just because it's June. That especially means you, Daniel Cooley Uggla!!!