The NL East race is decided, but there are still games to play for the Atlanta Braves, who will continue their road trip Friday with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. Atlanta took three of four in Philadelphia to clinch a sixth straight NL East title. The focus over the final 16 regular season games will be maintaining their lead over the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers for home field advantage throughout the postseason while keeping everyone healthy for October.
A couple of players are still chasing some milestones. Matt Olson is currently tied with Andruw Jones with the most home runs in a single season in franchise history with 51. Ronald Acuña Jr. is looking to lock down his first MVP award. He is also on the verge of several milestones. He is three homers shy of 40 homers and would be the fifth player in major league history with at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases. Acuña needs just six more stolen bases to tie Otis Nixon for the most in modern day franchise history. Also, his next hit will be his 200th of the season. The Braves as a team have 282 home runs which is the most in National League history. The Minnesota Twins hold the all-time record with 307, set back in 2019.
The Marlins have hung in the Wild Card race despite injuries to Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Soler. Alacantara was diagnosed with a sprained UCL and looks like a long shot to pitch again this season. Soler, who has 35 home runs, is out with an oblique injury. Miami added Josh Bell and Jake Burger at the Trade Deadline in hopes of pushing their offense over the hump, but they continue to be hurt by injury. Their offense remains fairly moribund, and gives them a weak position player group overall; they’ve hung around due to a top-10 pitching staff.
The Marlins will begin this weekend’s series with a 75-72 record. They just dropped two of three in Milwaukee and are one game back behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the final playoff spot in the National League.
Friday, September 15, 6:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Bryce Elder (28 GS, 162.1 IP, 18.0 K%, 8.1 BB%, 50.5 GB%, 3.38 ERA, 4.21 FIP)
Bryce Elder will make his 29th start of the season for the Braves in Friday’s series opener. Elder has settled in of late and is coming off a great start against the Pirates where he allowed four hits, two runs and struck out nine over seven innings. The nine strikeouts were a season-high and was the first time he has totaled more than five in 11 starts. It was the first time in 12 starts that Elder had an unequivocally good outing, and he’ll look to keep it going as the season winds down. Elder has faced the Marlins twice this season and has allowed eight hits and four runs combined in 12 1/3 innings, though one of those outings was a three-homer affair that was one of his few rough starts in the early part of the year.
Johnny Cueto (9 G, 8 GS, 41.0 IP, 19.6 K%, 8.3 BB%, 33.1 GB%, 6.15 ERA, 6.62 FIP)
Veteran righty Johnny Cueto will start for Miami in the opener. The Marlins had hoped that Cueto would be a veteran presence for their pitching staff, but injuries have limited his impact. When he has been healthy enough to pitch, the results have not been good. He allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies in his last start. Cueto has really only had one good start this year, and it came at home against the Rockies. He’s been hit pretty hard otherwise, which is probably disappointing for him and the Marlins given that he was serviceable as recently as last year.
Saturday, September 16, 4:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
The Marlins haven’t announced their pitching plans for Saturday’s game.
The Braves haven’t announced their rotation plans for Saturday either. Kyle Wright made what amounted to a rehab start in Monday’s doubleheader against the Phillies and would be on regular rest. Jared Shuster was called up as a long relief option for Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia and would also be an option to start Saturday’s game.
Sunday, September 17, 1:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Charlie Morton (28 GS, 157.2 IP, 25.8 K%, 11.1 BB%, 43.3 GB%, 3.42 ERA, 3.74 FIP)
The Braves will go with Charlie Morton in the series finale Sunday. Morton pitched in Monday’s doubleheader and allowed four runs and struck out nine over six innings against the Phillies. He’s faced the Marlins twice this season and has allowed just one run and has 14 strikeouts over 12 2/3 combined innings.
Jesus Luzardo (29 GS, 160.1 IP, 27.8 K%, 7.3 BB%, 40.1 GB%, 3.82 ERA, 3.73 FIP)
Hard throwing lefty Jesus Luzardo will start for the Marlins in Sunday’s finale. Luzardo put together a three-start stretch where allowed just two runs and struck out 21 hitters in 18 innings. However, he struggled last time out allowing 10 hits, four walks and six runs in five innings against the Brewers. He faced the Braves back on May 4 and allowed three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Luzardo has eviscerated lefties this year, so you might see the Braves give some of those bats a rest in this Sunday matinee.