The general consensus from Florida players was the three game series in Puerto Rico was “different”, however at least it was successful, as they captured two of three against the New York Mets. The Marlins are glad to be back in the lower 48, even if it means taking on the team with the best home record in baseball.
Florida (-6 units) is in fourth place in the National League East with 37-41 record and a trifle rudderless with interim manager Edwin Rodriguez calling the shots, but that is life under owner Jeffrey Loria, who expects prime kobe beef steak, as long as if doesn’t cost much.
Manager Bobby Cox farewell tour is going swimmingly, with Atlanta (46-33, +8.7) atop the division. The Braves offensively are playing a brand of baseball that is a sum of parts rather than individual components. Atlanta’s team batting average is eighth in the National League at .259 and this is a club sorely lacking in power, ranking 12th in home runs (61) and 13th in total bases. Yet, they are third in total runs scored in the senior circuit and are the best in on-base percentage at .347. The larger reason for this higher ranking is the patience at the dish with 342 walks, compared to league average of 264, which are 78 more chances to score without ever putting the ball in play.
While a great deal of focus has been rightly shone on Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez, with his brilliant season to date, tonight’s pitcher for the Fish, Josh Johnson (8-3, 1.83 ERA), has allowed six earned runs in his last nine starts, the same as Jimenez. Johnson and Florida are 31-14 against division opponents, which includes 7-4 vs. Atlanta. The 6’7 right-hander is 4-2 with 2.91 ERA against the Braves has permitted a .545 on-base slugging percentage this season, the lowest of any pitcher in the majors.
Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.15) started the season in the bullpen, but the 24-year old has eight quality starts in nine appearances since joining the rotation on May 8. Medlen and the Bravos are +106 home underdogs, which is noteworthy with Atlanta 28-9 (+15.2 units) at home. The Braves this season are 23-9 playing against a team with a losing record, but are 7-15 facing a pitcher who allows a home run or less every other start. Florida’s Johnson is 17-4 vs. teams who strand 7.5 or more runners on base per game (Marlins Record) and is 23-8 since the beginning of last year, the third best record in the big leagues.
Game 1 Edge: Florida
Game 2 in the series is a regional FOX telecast and it’s the second of a 10-game road trip for Florida. While the Braves rookie right fielder Jason Heyward has garnered a great deal of attention, the Marlins might end having the NL rookie of the year. First baseman Gaby Sanchez leads all rookies in batting average, base hits, doubles and on-base percentage. When asked about his lack of notoriety Sanchez responded, “I don’t mind at all, I’d rather be under the radar and coast through.”
One player not coasting is Anibal Sanchez (7-4, 3.18) for Florida. Sanchez has 10 quality starts from the total of 15 he’s been given the ball and the team is 4-1 when he has five days rest.
Atlanta counters with Tommy Hanson (7-5, 4.50) who’s hit the wall. His last two starts read like this – 7 1/3 innings, 21 hits, 14 earned runs permitted, for 17.18 ERA. (Yikes) Even after being knocked around, Hanson and his teammates are 9-3 in his last dozen starts and are 17-3 at Turner Field coming into this series.
The Braves are 36-15 in the second game of a series and the Marlins are 4-9 most recently.
Game 2 Edge: Atlanta
The series finale pits Ricky Nolasco (7-6, 4.84) against veteran Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.37). The Atlanta right-hander has been exceptional all season long, conceding more than three runs once in his 16 trips to the slab. The Braves began this series 40-17 as favorites. The Marlins are drowning in the role of underdog, 11-22 as of Friday and they hope Nolasco’s bugaboo doesn’t arise again. The five year veteran has a better than 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 2010, but he’s been leaving too many pitches in the zone and has been taken deep 19 times already this season. A 5:05 local start time should help pitchers with more shadows.
Game 3 Edge: Braves
This is the Marlins first trip into Atlanta this season and they are 9-9 the past two years and 19-20 overall against the Braves since 2008. Florida would seem to have a legitimate opportunity to win this series because they can match Atlanta’s starting pitching. Nonetheless, baseball is a nine inning contest and with how well the Bravos are playing at home and having decided edge in the bullpen (Marlins pen ERA is 4.65 vs. Braves 3.37), a series wager on manager Cox’s club appears prudent.
Sports books series odds: Florida +140, Atlanta -1703
3Daily Winners Pick: Atlanta