Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly was asked about the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, and his answer likely was representative of what many baseball analysts are feeling.
"You know they're going to keep coming," Mattingly said of the Braves. "When they break out, they break out big."
That breakout did not happen on Saturday as Miami posted a 4-2 win over Atlanta.
The Braves will start lefty Drew Smyly (2-3, 5.82 ERA) on Sunday as they attempt to avoid a three-game sweep against Miami.
Atlanta is mired in its fourth four-game losing skid of the season.
The Braves have struggled to close out games, ranking tied for 24th with 12 saves (in 23 chances). The Braves are also 18th overall in ERA (4.34).
Manager Brian Snitker, who has led the Braves to three straight division crowns in the National League East, is preaching patience.
"We've been through this all year," Snitker said. "We've had to handle tough situations, and we have. We've just got to continue to prepare and play hard."
Smyly is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three career appearances against the Marlins, including two starts. He has pitched just once in Miami, tossing one scoreless inning in relief.
The Braves are 3-7 this season when Smyly pitches. Part of the problem for Smyly is that he hasn't given his team length of late, lasting just 4 1/3 innings in each of his previous two starts.
Right-handed hitters are doing fairly well against Smyly - a .250 average and an .810 OPS. Smyly, however, has really struggled against lefty batters -- .304 batting average and 1.024 OPS.
The Marlins will start right-hander Pablo Lopez (2-3, 2.76), who is coming off a career-high eight-inning performance against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.
Lopez, who is 2-4 with a 5.24 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves, escaped with a no-decision in his last encounter with Atlanta on April 13. He allowed six runs on nine hits in just four innings, but he received a lot of offensive support as the Marlins recorded a 14-8 victory.
Miami has won five of six meetings with Atlanta this season.
In addition, the Marlins are 4-1 on this homestand. The Marlins took two of three from the Colorado Rockies before facing Atlanta.
That's a radical change in momentum for the Marlins, who arrived home on Tuesday fresh off a 1-8 road trip.
"This is what we needed after that trip," Mattingly said. "Hopefully, we can close out (the Braves on Sunday). We can't afford to stop."
The Marlins are not a powerhouse offensively, ranking 24th in runs, 25th in OPS and 26th in homers.
But the Marlins are hanging around due to their stellar pitching (seventh in the majors in ERA at 3.51).
--Field Level Media