Around the NL East: Braves keep sliding as Nats take first

Around the NL East: Braves keep sliding as Nats take first
May 6, 2014, 12:15 pm
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ATLANTA BRAVES

It was just a week ago the Braves were riding high with the second-best record in baseball at 17-7 and the best starting rotation in the majors. Since Atlanta has dropped seven consecutive games, including sweeps at Miami and against San Francisco. Last year, when they won the NL East, they're longest losing streak was just four games.

Atlanta lost Monday night's game against the Cardinals and have two more vs. St. Louis before hosting the Cubs. They then go to San Francisco and at St. Louis. That's a tough stretch that will certainly test the defending division champs.

In the meantime, Fredi Gonzalez has adjusted his lineup to try and shake things up. On Monday night he had Justin Upton batting second and pitcher Aaron Harang hitting eighth. It still didn't work as the Braves lost 4-3. And with the Nationals' 4-0 win over the Dodgers early Tuesday morning, Washington is now in first place with a half-game lead over Atlanta.

MIAMI MARLINS

As the Braves have lost control, the Marlins are starting to establish themselves as a pretty decent team. After beating the Mets on Monday, the Fish have won six of their last seven games. They are now 17-15 on the season, only a half-game behind the Braves and just one game out of first place behind the Nationals. For comparison, they didn't get 17 wins until June 8 of last season.

It has helped that the Marlins are playing at home where they are now 15-5 this season. They are only 2-10 on the road this year, and after two more games against the Mets embark on a 11-game west coast road trip. They'll go through San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. How the Marlins come out of that gauntlet will tell us a lot about who they really are.

NEW YORK METS

The Mets have lost four of their last five games, a stretch where they gave up a total of 33 runs. Their bullpen continues to haunt them, as Daisuke Matsuzaka blew a three-run lead against the Marlins on Monday night. They may also now put Jenrry Mejia back into the bullpen after it's becoming clear he can't pitch past the fourth or fifth inning. He has a 5.23 ERA through six starts this season.

The Mets did get some good news this week, however, as Matt Harvey is set to take the next step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. On Friday he will throw off flat ground from 120 feet. According to the NY Daily News, that's the final step Harvey will complete before throwing off flat ground before taking a mound. That next step could happen in June.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

The two wins the Phillies picked up over the Nats this past weekend are the only two they have in their last five games. The problem with Philly this year is they simply can't score. Right now they rank 26th in the majors with 118 runs through 30 games. That's an average of 3.9 runs per game. 

On Monday it was former Phillie J.A. Happ who shut them out through five innings with the Blue Jays as the Phils lost 3-0. They've now only scored more than three runs once in their last six games.

Help could be on the way for their pitching staff at least, as Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is looking good at extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla. Gonzalez dealt with elbow and shoulder problems in spring training, but is now hitting the mid-90s on his fastball, so says the Phillies. It could be three or four weeks until he makes his MLB debut.