The series is a lot more spirited than expected.
A day after tempers flared and the benches cleared, the Braves will try to remain focused on preparing for the postseason Thursday in the series finale in Miami.
Atlanta (87-58) owns the best record in the NL, and Miami (54-90) has the worst. The disparity between the division rivals has been evident by the Braves winning seven of the first eight season meetings at Marlins Park, including victories in the first two of this series.
The Braves failed to make it three in a row Wednesday, falling 5-2. The game was marred by a bench-clearing incident in the sixth, when Brian McCann confronted Marlins' rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez after he was perceived to be showing up Mike Minor following his first home run.
"He stood there for a while, and that's disrespectful to Mike," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "That was bad."
Still, Atlanta can take solace in its 11-game lead on second-place Washington in the division race.
That ample lead affords the Braves the luxury of resting starting pitchers in preparation for the postseason. That means rookie Alex Wood is getting a breather Thursday, despite only throwing 70 1-3 innings in 25 games - 10 starts.
"(Wood) hasn't pitched in September ever or this long," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team's official website.
Gonzalez will instead give Freddy Garcia (0-1, 1.17 ERA) his first start for Atlanta.
The 36-year-old right-hander has made three appearances out of the bullpen since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett on Sept. 1. His last start June 23 earned him a demotion to the minors, surrendering seven runs in 2 1-3 innings for Baltimore in a 13-5 loss at Toronto.
Garcia didn't inspire much confidence in his only start for Gwinnett on Aug. 26, giving up eight runs with five walks while being pulled with two outs in the fourth.
However, he tossed 4 2-3 scoreless innings against the Marlins after Wood was chased for giving up all of Miami's scoring in the opening 2 1-3 of a 7-0 loss Sept. 1. Garcia had a 7.13 ERA in his first three starts against the Marlins.
Nathan Eovaldi (3-6, 3.80) started opposite Wood in that matchup, and tossed a season-high eight innings to earn the win after going 0-5 with a 4.30 ERA over his previous eight games.
Eovaldi, though, may also be skipped because he's dealing with an ailing back.
"His start is going to be in jeopardy," manager Mike Redmond told the team's official website. "It looks like he will probably be unable to go, and (Brian) Flynn, we will move him up."
Flynn, 23, made his major league debut last Wednesday, allowing three runs and two homers with three walks in four innings while not getting a decision in a 9-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs .
The left-hander showed promise with Triple-A New Orleans, going 4-2 with a 1.36 ERA over his last nine starts before being recalled by the Marlins on Sept. 3.
He'll have to contend with 27-year-old rookie Evan Gattis , who has a .394 average with three homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs in nine meetings with the Marlins. He's 6 for 16 (.375) with three homers and seven RBIs in the past four overall games.
|September 11, 2013||Paul Maholm||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|September 10, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 29, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Left hand injury|
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 21, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 20, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Strained upper back|
|September 09, 2013||Jeff Mathis||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right thumb|
|September 08, 2013||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right foot and ankle|
|September 02, 2013||Henderson Alvarez||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 01, 2013||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Right ankle|
|August 19, 2013||Placido Polanco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 19, 2013||Placido Polanco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
MIAMI (AP) -- The game had all the earmarks of low-stakes September baseball, with a small crowd and two spot starters in a matchup of first- and last-place teams.
Bring on Freddy Garcia .
The well-traveled 36-year-old right-hander earned his second NL victory since 2007, and his first since he joined the Atlanta Braves last month, pitching six innings to help beat Miami 6-1 Thursday.
"Freddy wore the MVP pants today," teammate Freddie Freeman said. "What he did was pretty awesome."
Freeman had three hits on his 24th birthday, including his 20th home run. Chris Johnson also had three hits to raise his average to .330.
Garcia (1-1) allowed five hits and one run. What was working for him?
"Everything," he said with a smile.
"He's a veteran guy," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He knows how to maneuver himself through a major-league lineup - put a little on it, take a little off and never give you the same look."
Garcia made his first start for the NL East leaders in place of rookie left-hander Alex Wood , whose turn was skipped to give him a breather. A two-time AL All-Star, Garcia lowered his ERA since joining the Braves to 1.32 in 13 2-3 innings.
He could be valuable in October, when the games become much more important.
"Hopefully I'll continue to pitch the way I've been pitching," he said. "Whatever they need me to do, I'm ready for."
Three relievers completed a seven-hitter. Jordan Walden , who had been sidelined by a groin injury, pitched a scoreless seventh in his first appearance since Aug. 21.
"We wanted to give him an inning and make sure he's OK," Gonzalez said. "That's a big piece we haven't had. That will take a little burden off some of the other guys we have been using a lot."
There were no testy encounters less than 24 hours after a bench-clearing confrontation during the Braves' victory Wednesday night.
The crowd of 15,274 was the Marlins' smallest at home since July 1. They're last in the NL in attendance.
Brian Flynn (0-1), making his second major-league start, walked six and allowed six runs in four innings.
"After an emotional night last night, we needed somebody to go out there, really pound the strike zone and put up some zeros," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "And that just didn't happen."
Flynn was given the start in place of Nathan Eovaldi , who was scratched because of a stiff back. Eovaldi won't pitch until Monday at the earliest.
The Marlins went 2-5 on their homestand. They have the NL's worst record and have lost 27 of their past 38 games.
Evan Gattis and Johnson hit consecutive two-run doubles in the third after Flynn walked the bases loaded to start the inning. Freeman's two-out, two-run homer in the fourth made it 6-1.
Freeman reached the 20-homer milestone for the third year in a row, leaving him 11 seasons behind former teammate Chipper Jones ' 14-year streak.
"We always jab at each other," Freeman said. "Three down, 11 more to go. I guess I can shoot him a text message, and that's another one down. But I've got a long ways to go."
Donovan Solano had a two-out RBI single in the third to score Miami's run.
Notes: Marlins LHP Brad Hand will make his first start of the year Friday when the Marlins open an 11-game trip against the Mets. RHP Henderson Alvarez and RHP Jacob Turner will start for Miami in a doubleheader Saturday. ... Atlanta won the season series 13-6. ... In the past three games, the Braves have hit .158 (6 for 38) with runners in scoring position. ... Solano improved his average with runners in scoring position to .371.
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