Jul 6, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22), left celebrates his three-run home run with left fielder Justin Upton (8) in the 7th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves defeated the Phillies, 13-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Miami Marlins (7/8 - 7/10)

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Greetings! The Braves didn’t perform particularly well (an understatement, probably) during their series loss in Philly, but that shouldn’t be a factor once the team arrives in south Florida on Monday night. Let’s take a look at what to expect.

Monday, July 8th – 7:10 PM ET – Kevin Slowey vs. Mike Minor

After the trade of Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers, the Marlins are inserting Kevin Slowey back into the rotation. No really, they are! Slowey made 13 starts before being demoted to the bullpen and, judging by his numbers, there was good reason to demote him. He’s actually pitched markedly better in a Marlins uniform that most people would have expected, but he’s wildly prone to home runs (1.40 per 9 innings for his career), and as a non-strikeout right-hander, the Braves should have no issues. As for the Braves starter, Mike Minor, he has “struggled” relatively in recent days. After a blazing start to the season (and end to 2012), Minor has cooled off, allowing 3+ runs in 4 consecutive starts, and his walk rate is rising along with his ERA. For the year, Minor is still sporting a 3.15 ERA, but he hasn’t been the same dominant guy from previous months, and it would be nice to see him tee off in this massive ballpark. As far as lineups go, the Marlins present Giancarlo Stanton as the only real “issue” for Minor, as the rest of their semi-threatening guys (i.e. Logan Morrison) mostly come from the left side of the plate.

Tuesday, July 9th – 7:10 PM ET – Henderson Alvarez vs. Julio Teheran

Didn’t we just see this match-up? Oh wait, we did. These two starters collided last Thursday, and the results were mixed. Both guys pitched 5 innings and allowed 3 runs, but that’s certainly a “loss” for Atlanta, as you would believe that Teheran should have a significant edge. Julio has been tremendous for the last couple of months for the Braves, and in the giant Miami ballpark, he should have no trouble dominating the Marlins lineup. On the other side, Alvarez is really a guy that Atlanta should have no trouble with, as he has no strikeout stuff at all (career 4.25 K/9) and is subject to the gopher ball. Advantage, Atlanta.

Thursday, July 4th – 7:10 PM ET – Jacob Turner vs. Paul Maholm

In the finale, Paul Maholm takes to the hill, and this is a nice spot for him. He’ll never overwhelm anyone (and I mean, anyone) with his stuff, but the Marlins don’t present the type of gauntlet lineup that would phase him, and this is a spot where he can be effective. Jacob Turner is a former prized prospect of the Tigers who seems to be putting it together finally. He has a 2.30 ERA (2.90 FIP) in 7 starts this year, and while that number is surely going to rise as evidenced by a 2.3% HR/FB rate and low strikeout total, he could be good for Miami. Fortunately, it’s yet another low strikeout right-hander, and for the opposition, that’s never a great recipe against the Braves. Look for Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward to stay hot, both against Turner and in the whole series.

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Despite their recent “hot streak”, the Marlins are one of the worst teams in baseball, and this is an opportunity for the Braves to extend their suddenly dwindling division lead. As of Monday, that lead has shrunk to 4 games, and winning 2 or 3 games here should, at worst, keep that number stagnant. The offense could use an injection, but really, the starting pitching should have the easier time here against a fledgling group from Miami.

Stay tuned for game-by-game analysis in this space as it happens!

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Miami Marlins

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