The Atlanta Braves have watched their NL wild-card lead take a severe hit over the past two weeks.
A trip to Florida might be just what they need to regain their swagger.Beginning their final series at Sun Life Stadium, the Braves look to extend their winning streak there to seven Monday night against the Marlins.After leading the wild-card race by 8 1/2 games Sept. 4, Atlanta (87-66) has lost nine of 14 and is now only 3 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis. The Braves, who dropped two of three to the New York Mets over the weekend, have a magic number of seven with nine games to play."Nobody's going to roll over for us," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.The Marlins (69-80) may not roll over, but they have done a good job of helping out the Braves, especially on their home field.Atlanta, which took two of three from Florida at Turner Field last week, has outscored the Marlins 25-14 while winning all six meetings at Sun Life Stadium this year, with Alex Gonzalez leading the way with two homers and six RBIs.Former Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla has four home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games against Florida this year, and catcher Brian McCann is batting .328 with three homers and eight RBIs in only eight contests.McCann and Chipper Jones have been two of the biggest obstacles for scheduled Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (10-11, 4.42 ERA). McCann is batting .364 with six homers and three doubles in 44 career at-bats against him, while Jones is hitting .385 with four home runs and five doubles in 39 at-bats.Nolasco looked sharp early in Atlanta last Wednesday, holding the Braves without a run and two hits through six innings, but then things quickly fell apart. He allowed Martin Prado to bunt in a run and served up a three-run homer to Gonzalez in a four-run seventh en route to a 4-1 loss.With the defeat, Nolasco matched his season high for losses, set as a rookie in 2006. The right-hander is 1/3 with a 7.64 ERA in his last six starts after going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his previous four.The Braves will counter with Mike Minor (5-2, 4.11), which could be a good sign since they've won nine of his last 10 starts.Minor gave up one run while scattering four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings against the Marlins last Tuesday, but didn't get a decision in Atlanta's 7-1 home win. The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last five outings, and seems to be solidifying his spot in a possible postseason rotation with injuries to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson."I feel better and better every time I go out there," said the 23-year-old Minor, who was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett on Aug. 6. "I feel like more a part of the team than just a fill-in. I think they kind of trust me now a little bit."Minor will face a Marlins team that managed six hits and didn't draw a walk in Sunday's 4-3 loss to Washington."Our guys are allergic to taking walks," said manager Jack McKeon, whose club has dropped five of seven.Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who hit his first homer since Sept. 3 on Sunday, is hitting .194 in his last 10 games, and .151 with a home run and two RBIs against the Braves this season.