(SportsNetwork.com) - Four consecutive losses by Atlanta has allowed the Miami Marlins to catch the Braves in the NL East standings.
The slumping Braves now try to avoid dropping behind the Marlins for first place in the division, but must find a way to beat Miami on its home field in Friday night's opener of a three-game series.
Atlanta was outscored 22-12 in getting swept in a four-game home-and-home series with the Boston Red Sox, falling to 11-16 in May after opening the season 17-9 through the first month of action.
The two setbacks in Fenway Park pushed the Braves three games under .500 on the road at 10-12 and now the club must find a way to get on track against a Marlins team that owns the best home record in baseball at 20-8.
The Braves did manage to take two of three from a visiting Marlins club from April 21-23, but were then outscored 23-7 in dropping all three games of a set in Miami from April 29-May 1.
It was the Marlins first home sweep of the Braves since June 13-15, 2006.
One thing going in Atlanta's favor is that it will start 23-year-old Julio Teheran, who has not allowed a run over his last two starts and ranks third in baseball with a 1.77 earned run average.
After going five consecutive outings without a victory, Teheran logged a career-high 128 pitches in a six-hit shutout of Milwaukee on May 20. He followed up by keeping Colorado off the board for six innings on Sunday, scattering four hits and one walk while striking out seven in the win.
The right-hander was lifted after 93 pitches and moved above .500 on the year at 4-3.
"After a complete game the last time out, we wanted to keep him right where he was today," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told his club's website. "We didn't want to keep running him out there and having him throw pitches this early in the season. That worked out perfectly. You couldn't ask for a better outing out of him."
Teheran has never lost to the Marlins, going 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA in five meetings. He did not factor into the decision of his first encounter with them this season, an April 21 encounter won in extra innings by Atlanta. Teheran fanned eight over seven innings while giving up one run.
Tom Koehler faced Teheran on that day and held his own, something he'll try to accomplish again tonight.
Koehler yielded two runs and struck out eight batters over 6 1/3 frames and is 0-1 with a 3.54 ERA in six career meetings with the Braves, three of those starts.
The 27-year-old righty logged seven scoreless frames to beat San Francisco on May 17, but was then tagged for seven runs over five frames in losing a 9-5 decision to Milwaukee on Friday.
"Tonight he just had a tough time executing pitches," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He made a lot of mistakes out over the plate. (The Brewers) are a very aggressive team."
Koehler fell to 4-4 on the year with a 3.10 ERA and will try to extend Miami's momentum tonight after it won both games of a rain-shortened series with the Washington Nationals.
The Marlins failed to hold a 4-0 lead in Wednesday's victory, but got four runs in the 10th inning to claim an 8-5 decision and win for the fifth time in seven games.