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Marlins, making wild-card-push, seek sweep of Braves

Field Level Media

September 17, 2023 at 12:39 pm.

Miami Marlins left-hander Jesus Luzardo needs a bounce-back performance.

Miami is 17-12 when Luzardo starts this year, but Monday in his most recent start, the Marlins lost 12-0 at the Milwaukee Brewers. Luzardo allowed a season-high 10 hits to go with six earned runs — his second-highest total of the year.

Luzardo (9-9, 3.82 ERA) will look for that turnaround on Sunday for the host Marlins when they go for a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins (77-72) are competing for a National League wild-card berth. Miami is the first NL East team to beat the Braves in a series this year and currently is a half-game behind Arizona and Cincinnati in the race for the league’s third and final wild-card spot.

Atlanta (96-52) already has clinched its sixth straight NL East title. The Braves, who have the best record in the majors, also are closing in on home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“There is something special about this group,” Braves third baseman Austin Riley said. “We believe in each other. It’s fun coming to the park every day.”

With a career-high nine wins this season, Luzardo has faced Atlanta just once this year, losing 6-3 on May 4. In that game, he lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and four runs (three earned).

In five career starts against Atlanta, Luzardo is 2-3 with a 4.38 ERA.

Luzardo has been much better this year at home (3.14 ERA in 17 starts) than on the road (4.86 ERA in 12). However, after a strong first half (8-5, 3.29 ERA in 19 starts), he has faded down the stretch (1-4, 4.94 ERA in 10 starts).

As for the Marlins overall, manager Skip Schumaker said he is pleased with his team’s effort.

“There is no quit in our players,” Schumaker said. “They fight until the end.”

The Braves, meanwhile, will start right-hander Charlie Morton (14-11, 3.42 ERA) on Sunday. Morton, who is in his 16th MLB season, is two wins short of tying his career high for wins.

The 39-year-old Morton is durable. Aside from the 2020 COVID season, this marks the sixth straight year that he has pitched more than 145 innings.

The Braves are 16-12 this year when starting Morton, who is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season. For his career against them, Morton is 13-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 23 starts.

Both Miami and Atlanta will enter Sunday’s game with hot offenses.

Miami hit four homers on Saturday as Luis Arraez, Yuli Gurriel, Jake Burger and Jazz Chisholm Jr. went deep in an 11-5 win.

Arraez has three homers in two games. Gurriel hit a big three-run shot in the first inning, and Burger had a two-run, tie-breaking homer in the eighth. And Chisholm hit Miami’s first grand slam of the season.

Chisholm, who also stole three bases, is closing in on what would be the first 20-20 season of his career. He has 22 steals and 17 homers.

For the Braves, Matt Olson set the single-season franchise record for home runs on Saturday. He has 52 — one more than Andruw Jones’ total in 2005.

Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris II also went deep on Saturday. Albies, with 30 homers, tied his career high set in 2021. He also became the fifth Braves hitter to reach 30 this year.

Riley, with 36 homers, is two short of the career high he set last year. Harris, with 18, is one shy of what he posted as a rookie last season.

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