Braves visit Marlins attempting to clinch 5th straight NL East title

The Atlanta Braves can clinch their fifth straight National League East championship with one win during their three-game series against the host Miami Marlins, which begins Monday.

The Braves (100-59) lowered their magic number to one by sweeping the New York Mets in a three-game series over the weekend. The Braves beat the Mets 5-3 on Sunday and hold a two-game lead, as well as the tiebreaker, over the Mets.

“We’re a win away from accomplishing our goal when we left spring training,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “This was about as exciting and emotional a series that I’ve ever been a part of, including the playoff series.”

But the Marlins have played well of late against contenders. Miami (67-92) put a crimp in Milwaukee’s playoff chances by winning three of four games against the Brewers after previously splitting a two-game set against Mets.

Atlanta has won 12 of 16 games against the Marlins this season and has swept the last two series between the clubs.

“We still have work to do,” Snitker said. “The Marlins have talent, they’ve got pitching. We’ve got to win another game.”

Miami will send left-hander Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53 ERA) to the mound to face Atlanta rookie Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76).

Elder is coming off a shutout in an 8-0 win over Washington last Monday. He became the first Atlanta rookie to throw a shutout since Paul Marak on Sept. 23, 1990. Elder allowed six hits, struck out six and allowed only one runner to reach third base.

“It means a lot, but at the same time it’s another win,” Elder said. “We’re trying to stack the wins on top of each other here.”

Elder has made three starts against the Marlins this season, going 0-1 with a 1.53 ERA.

Luzardo had a nice recovery on Wednesday in his last start against the Mets when he pitched six innings and allowed two runs on four hits. It was his third straight outing of six-plus innings.

“It was definitely a good bounce-back start compared to the last time I saw them (five runs in 3 1/3 innings),” Luzardo said. “I’m glad I got better as the game went along.”

Luzardo will make his fourth career start against Atlanta. He’s posted a 6.23 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 13 innings. He last faced the Braves on Aug. 13 in the first game of a doubleheader and allowed four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks in five innings.

Miami’s hottest hitter has been outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who is batting .370 (27-for-73) in 22 games since being recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville. During that stretch he has scored 13 runs and has eight doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs.

“He’s gotten back to his approach and being who he needs to be,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said.

Atlanta continues to deliver the long ball. Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson both homered in all three games against Mets. Atlanta has 241 homers, the second-most in a single season in franchise history, bettered only by the 249 struck in 2019. The Braves hit seven home runs against the Mets. Olson also picked up his 100th RBI on Sunday.

–Field Level Media