MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — One of baseball’s hottest teams has spent 2016 buried in the National League East basement, but the Atlanta Braves are providing plenty of optimism as they bring a six-game winning streak into Friday’s second game of a four-game set at the Miami Marlins.
Matt Kemp slugged two homers in Thursday’s series-opening 6-3 victory and Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 26 games, as the Braves have won 14 of their past 22 games and are hitting .281 since the start of August.
Kemp – who turns 32 on Friday – went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs Thursday to raise his average to .295 since Atlanta acquired him in a July 31 trade with San Diego, and has belted 10 homers in 48 games while jolting the Braves’ offense to life. The Marlins are on the verge of falling out of the NL wild-card race, starting Thursday’s play four games out of a three-way tie for the two wild-card spots and dropping to 8-11 in their past 19 games. Derek Dietrich brings an eight-game hitting streak into Friday during which he is batting .588 with seven RBIs and four extra-base hits. Ichiro Suzuki is mired in an 0-for-16 slump in his past eight games and is stuck on 3,027 career hits.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN South (Atlanta), FSN Florida (Miami)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves RH Matt Wisler (7-12, 4.93 ERA) vs. Marlins RH Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.27)
Wisler struggled in a Sept. 13 loss to the Marlins in his first start in 13 days due to a side injury, giving up six runs on 10 hits with no strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings, but rebounded nicely Sunday in earning a victory over the Nationals. He allowed two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings against Washington, improving to 3-1 with a 3.75 ERA since returning from Triple-A Gwinnett. The 24-year-old is 0-2 against Miami in three starts this season with a 7.15 ERA and 20 hits allowed in 11 1/3 innings.
The Marlins acquired Cashner at the trade deadline hoping he would lead them to a NL wild-card spot, but the 30-year-old is just 1-4 with a 6.18 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) with Miami. He was hammered for seven runs on six hits in two innings against the Braves on Sept. 12 – the third time with the Marlins he has allowed six or more runs – and only lasted four innings in allowing three runs Sunday at Philadelphia. Cashner has posted an 8.82 ERA in four September starts, allowing 16 runs in 16 1/3 innings.
1. Miami is hitting just .235 in September while posting a 4.53 ERA (90 ER/179 IP).
2. Atlanta was held to seven hits Thursday, snapping a 21-game streak of recording at least eight hits.
3. The Marlins are 19-29 since the beginning of August after being nine games above .500 on July 31.
PREDICTION: Braves 5, Marlins 3
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