The Atlanta Braves, who are third in the majors in home runs, have powered their way to the top of the National League East.
On Monday night, Atlanta — which has won 10 of its past 12 games — will visit the Miami Marlins for the start of a three-game series.
Atlanta’s entire starting infield has at least 22 homers this season: first baseman Freddie Freeman (25); second baseman Ozzie Albies (22); shortstop Dansby Swanson (24); and third baseman Austin Riley (25).
“It’s impressive,” Riley said of the quartet. “It just shows our depth.”
Indeed, Swansby has homered in three straight games. Albies has homered in five of his past seven.
“Dansby and Ozzie,” Riley said, “they are on another planet.”
On Monday, Atlanta will start right-hander Touki Toussaint (1-2, 4.28 ERA), a South Florida native who was a first-round pick in 2014.
Toussaint, 25, is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four career games against the Marlins, including one start. He has struggled in Miami, however — a 5.40 ERA in two relief appearances, although he picked up a win in one of them.
The Braves, who lead the second-place Philadelphia Phillies by one game, are 3-2 this year when Toussaint starts, including two straight wins. Of his five starts, only one has been a clunker, when he allowed seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 30.
If bullpen help is required — and it almost always is these days — the Braves could at some point turn to Richard Rodriguez, who has pitched nine scoreless innings in nine appearances since Atlanta acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates last month.
“It’s a nice piece to have,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Rodriguez, who is 4-2 this season with a 2.33 ERA and 14 saves.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have won four straight games, matching their season high.
The Marlins have also finally escaped last place during this run, passing the Washington Nationals. The fourth-place Marlins trail the Braves by 11 games.
Granted, three of Miami’s wins in this streak have come against the Chicago Cubs, who are on an 11-game skid.
Still, Marlins manager Don Mattingly is pleased with his team’s progress.
“We’ve been able to get runs when we need them,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins on Monday are expected to start rookie lefty Braxton Garrett (1-1, 4.65 ERA), who has never faced Atlanta.
Miami is 2-4 when in games Garrett has started. His only win this year came on July 24 against the San Diego Padres. Garrett pitched seven innings in that game, allowing four hits, one walk and two runs, striking out 10.
On most days now, the Marlins use three rookies among their eight starting hitters: catcher Alex Jackson, second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. and right fielder Bryan De La Cruz.
Chisholm, who homered on Sunday, has hit 12 this season and stolen 11 bases in just 81 games. With his speed and pop, it’s not hard to imagine a 20-20 or even a 30-30 season in the 23-year-old’s future.
Jackson has three homers in 12 games since being acquired by the Marlins, and De La Cruz has been a revelation in right field with his speed, arm and ability to run in or track back on fly balls.
De La Cruz is hitting .298 with two homers in 16 games.
–Field Level Media