MIAMI (AP) — When the Miami Marlins entered their series with the Atlanta, they looked forward to a chance to surpass their divisional foe for first place. But they’ve squandered that opportunity with back-to-back home losses to the Braves.

However, considering Sunday’s pitching matchup, the Marlins have to like their chances to avoid being swept at home for the first time this season.

Miami (28-27) came into the weekend after sweeping a two-game set in Washington, while Atlanta (30-25) had dropped four straight to Boston. The Braves, though, have staved off the charging Marlins, including a 9-5 win Saturday in which they were 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

The consecutive road victories follow what was a 2-10 stretch away from home for Atlanta. The Braves are also 14-9 against National League East rivals, the best intradivisional record by an NL club.

“These are the ones you have to win when you’re tied and playing a team in your division,” catcher Gerald Laird, who is 7 for 19 with five RBIs in his last five games, told the team’s official website. “I like the way we’ve come back from a four-game losing streak.”

Miami, which has dropped a season-worst three in a row at home, is trying to avoid being swept at Marlins Park in a series of at least three games for the first time since May 14-16, 2013, against Cincinnati.

The Marlins had themselves to blame for much of Saturday’s loss, issuing nine walks and committing three errors.

“We’re walking way too many guys and then you cap that off with sloppy defense,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We’re going up against the best teams in baseball. To go out there and compete we have to play better baseball.”

Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.36 ERA) should provide that opportunity given his past performances versus Atlanta. He’s 2-1 in eight career starts against the Braves with a 1.80 ERA – his lowest against any club he’s faced at least three times.

The right-hander threw seven innings in a 9-3 home victory on April 30, allowing one run – the only earned run he’s surrendered in his last four matchups with Atlanta – and three hits.

Eovaldi will be looking to win a career-high third straight start after holding Washington to two runs and three hits over 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 road victory Monday.

Aaron Harang (4-4, 3.29), on the other hand, has quite an adverse history against Miami, going 5-5 in 15 starts with a 6.54 ERA – his highest against a club he’s faced at least eight times. He was shelled for a career-worst nine earned runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings losing to Eovaldi in April.

Garrett Jones is 7 for 18 with two doubles and a homer against Harang while Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is 1 for 21 over his last six and batting .136 since May 8, is 4 for 7.

Craig Kimbrel is one save shy of surpassing John Smoltz for the franchise record after recording his 154th Saturday. He’s allowed one earned run over his last 14 innings.

Jason Heyward has reached base safely in 19 of his last 20 contests and is 8 for 18 versus Eovaldi.

Atlanta has won 24 of its last 33 at Miami.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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