As the Braves prepare to flip the calendar on Sunday, rookie left-hander Alex Wood can only hope the coming month yields the type of results that he produced throughout the entire month of August.
In his first full month as a big league starter, the 22-year-old lefty went 2-0 with a microscopic 0.90 ERA over five August starts. His ERA was the lowest among all Major League starters with at least 30 innings pitched for the month.
Now, Wood will be tasked with leading the Braves into September as he toes the rubber in Sunday's series finale against the Marlins. Atlanta enters the final month of the regular season carrying a six-game winning streak and a 15-game lead in the National League East. The Braves' magic number to clinch the division is 13.
The Marlins will counter with Nathan Eovaldi as they look to play spoiler to another lengthy Atlanta winning streak, and in turn, snap their six-game losing streak. The pitching matchup is also a rematch of the Aug. 10 meeting in which the Marlins ended the Braves' 14-game winning streak, which remains the longest in the Majors this season. Both Eovaldi and Wood twirled gems, though neither starter factored into the decision in the 1-0 contest.
For Wood it was the best start of his young career. He allowed just two hits over six shutout innings while striking out seven and walking one. Including two relief appearances, he's tossed nine scoreless innings against the Marlins this season.
A second-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Wood has settled into the starting rotation after making 15 of his first 16 appearances out of the bullpen. He has limited the opposition to one run or fewer in each of his last five outings, including Tuesday against the Indians when he pitched around a career-high four walks over 5 2/3 shutout innings.
"I feel like I've been able to get out of that situation and make pitches when I need to," Wood said. "That's such a huge part of having success anywhere, not just up here, so that definitely played a big role for me."
Eovaldi, meanwhile, worked seven innings of one-hit ball in that Aug. 10 meeting, but -- as has been the case for much of the season -- came away with nothing to show for it. The Marlins righty is winless in eight outings since the All-Star break, despite turning in quality starts in all but two of those games.
Not including a disastrous performance on Aug. 16, when Eovaldi was tagged for 11 runs (nine earned) in three innings, the Marlins have scored just 10 runs in his seven other second-half starts. Overall, Eovaldi has been provided with just 2.82 runs of support per game this season, the worst among Marlins pitchers.
"I don't think I'm stunned," manager Mike Redmond said when asked if he was surprised Eovaldi hasn't notched a win since July 12. "We don't score him any runs. He's pitched really well. He's certainly pitched well enough to win ballgames. But for whatever reason, the starts that he's made, we haven't been able to score for him. It's too bad."
Marlins: Coghlan joining big club
Chris Coghlan will rejoin the Marlins prior to Sunday's series finale.
With Sunday marking the first day rosters can expand, the Marlins are planning to bring Coghlan back from his rehab assignment. He last played for the Marlins on June 8, having been on the disabled list since then while nursing a right calf nerve irritation.
Coghlan, who hit .277 with a .326 on-base percentage in 51 games for the Marlins earlier this season, has played all but two games of his five-year Major League career in the outfield. During 12 rehab games between Class A Jupiter and Triple-A New Orleans, however, he exclusively played third base while in the field.
"He's been playing third base in the Minor Leagues," Redmond said. "I foresee him to play third base, but that's not to say he won't be playing in the outfield, either. We'll just kind of wait and see where we're at. Right now, we need a bat. We need somebody to come in and hit. If he comes in and hits, we'll find a spot for him."
Braves: J-Up expected to return to starting lineup
After sitting out Friday night's series opener and being limited to pinch-hitting duties on Saturday, outfielder Justin Upton will likely return to the Braves' starting lineup for Sunday's series finale.
Upton, hitting .265 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs in his first season with the Braves, has been dealing with a bruised left hand after being hit by an Ubaldo Jimenez 92-mph fastball on Thursday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez kept him out of the lineup on Friday and did the same on Saturday before using him as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning.
In his first plate appearance since being struck on the hand, Upton grounded out to third base before remaining in the game and playing one inning in left field.
• The Braves enter Sunday's finale 31 games over .500 for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004, when they were 96-65.
• The Marlins had a long drought come to an end on Saturday when Giancarlo Stanton drew a two-out, first-inning walk, then scored on a Justin Ruggiano two-run homer. Prior to Stanton crossing home plate, the Marlins had a stretch of 38 straight players who had walked, but failed to come around to score. The most consecutive non-scoring walks in club history is 40, set in 2003.