Marlins-Braves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 17, 2012
After struggling mightily in April, Miami's offense is clicking and the Marlins are piling up wins. Their suddenly potent lineup will be put to the test in Thursday night's two-game series finale against the Atlanta Braves, who will give the ball to major league ERA leader Brandon Beachy. With Wednesday's 8-4 victory over the Braves, Miami (20-7) improved to 12-3 in May and moved three games above .500 for the first time. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer while Austin Kearns and Emilio Bonifacio also drove in two runs apiece for the Marlins, who are 9-1 on the road this month. Miami's offense has keyed the turnaround in May, averaging 4.7 runs and batting .255. Miami scored 3.3 runs per game and batted .228 in April. "The difference this month is we get big hits because we're pitching the same,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. The Marlins made quick work of Atlanta starter Mike Minor on Wednesday, knocking him around for six runs in 4 2-3 innings. The beating wasn't surprising considering Minor's 7.09 ERA is the highest among NL qualifiers. Generating offense figures to be much more difficult against Beachy (4-1, 1.60 ERA), who has yielded two runs or fewer in each of his last six starts. Beachy is limiting opponents to a .181 batting average on the season and has served up just one homer in 45 innings, but he has had some recent control trouble. The right-hander walked four in six innings in St. Louis on Saturday after issuing three free passes in 6 1-3 innings against Colorado on May 6. Despite the command issues, Beachy limited the Cardinals to one run and two hits in a 7-2 Braves victory. Beachy went 1-0 in four inconsistent starts against the Marlins last season, posting a 1.29 ERA in two of them but a 7.59 ERA in the other two. Stanton, who is 3 for 8 with two doubles lifetime against Beachy, hit his team-leading eighth homer Wednesday and possibly saved two runs with a sensational diving catch to end the fourth inning with runners on second and third. With the Braves (23-15) in the middle of a stretch of 33 games in 34 days, manager Fredi Gonzalez shuffled his lineup Wednesday, resting Chipper Jones and giving Michael Bourn - the NL hits leader with 55 - his first day off this season. Both are expected to back Thursday to face Miami starter Ricky Nolasco (4-1, 3.65), who is hoping to bounce back from a subpar showing. Nolasco was tagged for season highs of six runs and nine hits in a season-low 4 2-3 innings in Saturday's 9-3 home defeat to the New York Mets. The right-hander had been 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his previous three outings - all on the road. Nolasco has had some problems pitching at Turner Field lately, going 1-2 with a 6.97 ERA in his last four starts there. He was 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in five overall starts versus the Braves last season. Several Atlanta hitters have given Nolasco trouble. Jones is batting .357 with nine extra-base hits in 42 career at-bats, Brian McCann is hitting .340 with six homers in 47 at-bats, and Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla are each 5 for 13.
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