MIAMI (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves find themselves in unfamiliar territory following a dismal road trip.
Cody Ross hit a two-run homer, Ricky Nolasco pitched seven strong innings and the Florida Marlins beat the slumping Braves 3-2 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep.Atlanta, which has won a record 14 straight division titles, fell 13 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East -- its largest deficit since the streak started in 1991, according to
the Elias Sports Bureau.The Braves are seven games below .500 for the first time since May 26, 1992."We haven't done this in 15 years," manager Bobby Cox said. "So it's a little different."Atlanta was swept for the fourth time this season and the third time ever by the Marlins. The Braves ended a 1-6 road trip by falling to 3-14 in their last 17 games."You can't go 1-6 and gain ground, that's for sure," Cox said. "Yeah, it is disappointing."Dan Uggla also hit his 11th homer for Florida, which extended its winning streak to a season-high five games and improved to 15-6 since May 22."That's a ballclub over there that has been in winning situations," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "So for our kids to play well against them is pretty special."Jorge Sosa (1-9) lost his fourth straight decision. He allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings. He struck two and walked two.Nolasco (5-3) gave up one run and five hits. He struck out five, walked two and hit a batter.Adam LaRoche homered with one out in the ninth against Florida reliever Joe Borowski, who retired the next two batters to finish his 10th save in 11 chances."Every year, every team goes through ups and downs -- right now we're just on a down," Braves center fielder Andruw Jones said.
"We just continue to play bad baseball, and we're not correcting our mistakes."Ross hit his fourth home run and second with Florida to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead in the second. The 381-foot shot to left-center followed Miguel Cabrera's leadoff single.Ross was in the lineup one night after being hit in the jaw with a pitch. X-rays were negative and Ross didn't lose any teeth."It seems every team I've been on has gone through what Atlanta is going through," Ross said. "So I feel for them a little bit. But as long as we're winning, that's the main thing."Jones' run-scoring single with one out in the fourth pulled Atlanta within one.Uggla led off the seventh with a 382-foot drive to left off Tyler Yates to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead. Florida earned its fourth series sweep of the season and its second at home.Cabrera's career-high string of consecutive games without an RBI was extended to 13.Atlanta's first hit came with one out in the third, when Matt Diaz's chopper hit third base and bounced back toward home for a single.
Braves second baseman Marcus Giles (fever) was a late scratch and outfielder Ryan Langerhans (strained hip flexor) was sidelined for a third straight game. Wilson Betemit replaced Giles. ... Ross was acquired from Cincinnati in a May 26 trade. He began the season with Los Angeles. ... The announced attendance was 7,162 and 479 dogs on Bark at the Park night. ... Florida's previous sweeps of Atlanta were Sept. 24-26, 1996, and Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2005.