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Braves look to slow Marlins' roll

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Kevin Gausman and the Atlanta Braves face the Miami Marlins on Sunday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

By The Sports Xchange
MIAMI

Perhaps the Miami Marlins have signaled that they are not going to take it anymore. Entering Friday, the last-place Marlins had lost seven straight games to the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves.

But after beating the Braves 1-0 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday, the Marlins need a win Sunday to take a series from Atlanta for the first time this season.

Overall, the Braves (72-57) lead this year's series 13-5, but you couldn't tell that from the past two nights. The Marlins (53-78) got great starting pitching from Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen -- they combined for 12 scoreless innings -- and also received nearly impeccable relief work.

Only a ninth-inning homer by shortstop Dansby Swanson on Saturday got Atlanta on the board the past two nights.

"It shows you that we're capable of beating a first-place team," Straily said. "It really does a lot of good for the morale of our clubhouse."

On Sunday, the Marlins will start 22-year-old rookie right-hander Pablo Lopez (2-3, 4.42 ERA). The native of Venezuela began the season at Double-A Jacksonville and received a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans before beating the New York Mets 5-2 on June 30 in his major-league debut.

Lopez is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in his one appearance against the Braves on Aug. 13. He will face Braves right-hander Kevin Gausman (8-9, 3.99 ERA), a former LSU pitcher who was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Baltimore Orioles.

Gausman is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts since the Braves acquired him from the Orioles on July 31. He has allowed just three runs in his past 22 innings.

Braves pitchers have gone at least eight innings just four times this season -- twice by Gausman, who has the ability to be a staff ace.

Gausman will face a Marlins lineup that lacks big names but can surprise pitchers on occasion.

Case in point is rookie third baseman Brian Anderson, who has also played right field this year.

Anderson hit his 10th homer of the season on Saturday and has been a standout despite being lost in the giant shadows cast by fellow rookies Ronald Acuna of the Atlanta Braves and Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals.

Anderson's home run was pulled 415 feet to left field. The exit velocity was clocked at 106 mph.

Miami also got a triple and a run scored Saturday from Rafael Ortega, a 27-year-old from Venezuela who can best be described as a career minor-leaguer. He entered the month with just 68 games of major-league experience but now is starting for the Marlins in right field.

Miami also starts a rookie in center field (Magneuris Sierra), a rookie in left field (Austin Dean), rookie Anderson at third and rookie Lopez on the mound.

In addition, the shortstop, JT Riddle, is in his second year in the majors and started this season in the minors.

The Braves have a much better lineup on paper with Acuna (.930 OPS) in left field, Freddie Freeman (.920 OPS) at first base and Nick Markakis (.852 OPS) in right field.

Right now, though, the Braves are slumping.

"You hit a roadblock sometimes in baseball," Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz told the ajc.com. "It's unfortunate, but that's why you play 162."

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