The Marlins are in a tricky position as they wrap up August, negotiating their role as a potential playoff contender and a late-season spoiler. A 4-0 victory Saturday night over the hot-and-cold second-place Braves continued that confusion.
Miami, still 5 1/2 games back in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot, will turn to righty Nathan Eovaldi on Sunday to help navigate itself into a clearer picture against Atlanta, which is still trying to keep pace in the NL East but is seven games behind the first-place Nationals.
The Braves' narrower focus remains that second Wild Card spot, which has become more attainable with their recent string of wins. They sit just 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and face a heavy helping of division rivals in September, including six games in the middle of the month with the Nats that could better determine their playoff chances.
In the short term, the Braves will try to win their second straight series facing one of the hardest fastballs in the Majors. According to Fangraphs.com, Eovaldi's fastball averages 95.8 mph, the fourth highest among qualifying MLB starters. But in terms of overall production, he has been going through some rough times.
Eovaldi is coming off his shortest outing of the season, allowing six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings in a loss at the Angels, and he has lost his last three starts, allowing 12 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings (7.54 ERA). Since June 23, he has one victory, and Miami is 3-8 in his starts over that span.
Still, Eovaldi has enjoyed success against Atlanta, posting a 1-1 record with a 2.57 ERA in four starts.
"I've faced Atlanta multiple times," Eovaldi said. "I've done well against them. I'm hoping to have a good game and bounce back."
A year ago, Eovaldi missed the early part of the season due to a right shoulder injury. He ended up throwing 106 1/3 innings, and his innings total now is at 165 1/3.
"My arm feels great," he said. "I feel 100 percent right now. Probably the best I've felt in my career. No issues."
Alex Wood will take the hill for the Braves, aiming to go at least seven innings for the third straight game and this time hoping to get a win to show for it. His last outing was certainly good enough for a victory -- seven innings, three earned runs -- but as it has been all year, Atlanta's inconsistent offense couldn't back him against the Mets' Dillon Gee.
"You can take positives and negatives from anything," Wood said after the start. "When you lose when you go out there, you can't help but take responsibility because you're the guy with the ball in his hand."
Wood allowed two runs in a no-decision against the Pirates on Aug. 20.
Braves: Kimbrel joins elite list with 40th save
Craig Kimbrel joined yet another exclusive club when he notched his Major League-high 40th save to end Friday night's 5-2 win over the Marlins.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kimbrel became just the third Major League pitcher to register 40 or more saves in each of four consecutive seasons. Trevor Hoffman did it twice (1998-2001 and 2004-07) and Francisco Rodriguez matched the feat from 2005-08.
Kimbrel's success this year adds to the accomplishment he achieved last year, when he became the first pitcher in Major League history to record at least 40 saves in each of his first three full seasons.
Kimbrel has successfully converted 90.7 percent of the 197 save opportunities he has had since the start of the 2011 season. His 178 saves during this span are 47 more than any other Major Leaguer over the same period.
Marlins: Needing veterans to step up
Giancarlo Stanton is enjoying an MVP-caliber season. Christian Yelich is emerging in the leadoff spot, getting on base and scoring runs.
What the Marlins are looking for is more all-around production from a streaky lineup. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones are among the veterans brought in with playoff experience. Both have had their ups and downs.
"I think we have guys that are capable of swinging the bats," manager Mike Redmond said. "You could ask probably any of those guys, and some of them would say I need to be better or get more hits or whatever.
"But this is a team, and our offense always feeds off momentum. When we're going good, we're an offense that works together. Guys just need to stay focused on doing their part and doing their job -- the top of the order getting on base. We know eventually we're going to get those big hits."
• After collecting three hits Saturday night, Jason Heyward now has 19 multi-hit games since July 8.
• With 98 RBIs, Stanton is closing in on the Marlins' first 100-RBI season since Dan Uggla had 105 in 2010.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.