If the Braves hope to clinch the National League East crown in front of their home fans at Turner Field, Thursday's series finale against the Marlins in Miami is hugely important.
With Atlanta's magic number sitting at seven, and only three home games upcoming beginning Friday before the club spends a week on the road, the Braves need to return to Georgia with their magic number at least down to six for them to have a chance to clinch this weekend. That means either the Braves must win or the Nationals must lose Thursday for that to happen.
Hoping to secure that victory for Atlanta will be Freddy Garcia. The right-hander is getting the spot start in place of Alex Wood, who the club is skipping so he can get some extra rest in advance of the upcoming postseason.
For Garcia, Thursday will mark the 37-year-old's first start since being acquired from Baltimore earlier this summer. A little more than a week ago, however, Garcia tossed 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief against the Marlins on Sept. 1, allowing just three hits.
"He did a nice job navigating through that lineup, taking a little off, putting a little on, spinning it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after the game. "You could see the experience, you could see all that kind of stuff."
Opposing Garcia for the Marlins will be left-hander Brian Flynn, who slides up a day to start in place of right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who complained of a tight back on Wednesday.
Flynn, a September callup, has made one start, on Sept. 4 at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. He gave up three runs in four innings in a no-decision.
Braves: Uggla sits again
For the third consecutive game, Dan Uggla was out of the Braves' starting lineup Wednesday as Gonzalez continues to try to spark his club's offense. It's unclear when Atlanta plans to reinsert its mainstay at second base into the batting order.
"It's his ballclub and I respect the decision that he made," Uggla said. "Do I agree with it? Once again, I've reiterated this lots of times: No, actually not. I don't think we're a better ballclub with me on the bench. But he's the manager and I've got to respect his decision."
Uggla has gone just 4-for-31 (.129) in the 42 plate appearances he has garnered while attempting to get used to the improved vision he gained after undergoing LASIK surgery last month. His struggles have led Gonzalez to use Elliot Johnson as his starting second baseman the past three days, and the Braves are 2-1 in those games. Uggla did end up appearing in Wednesday's contest, but struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat.
"I would have loved to use this time to try to get locked in for the playoffs and keep going in the direction I felt I was going," Uggla said. "Obviously, [Gonzalez] felt different."
Marlins: Mathis sidelined with thumb injury
Due to a swollen right thumb, veteran catcher Jeff Mathis was unable to play Wednesday. Mathis injured his thumb in the fourth inning of Monday night's 5-2 loss to the Braves while trying to block a wild pitch in the dirt.
An X-ray that night came back negative, but the club will assess his injury again when the swelling goes down.
"There will probably be another X-ray to rule out a fracture," Redmond said. "I think sometimes after the initial trauma to the finger, you let the swelling get out of there and re-evaluate. Hopefully everything is fine."
• Juan Pierre is two hits away from tying Joe DiMaggio's 2,215 hits for 175th place on the all-time hit list.
• The Braves are 7-2 this season against the Marlins in Miami.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.