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Nate Eovaldi falters early as Miami Marlins fall to Atlanta Braves

On a night All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton crushed a three-run home run in his first rehab assignment following arthroscopic knee surgery, his major-league teammates took another one to the chin from the Braves.

Nathan Eovaldi, the 22-year-old right-hander acquired in the Hanley Ramirez trade with the Dodgers, had his shortest start as a big leaguer, lasting just two innings as the Braves pelted him for eight hits and six earned runs in a 6-1 loss at Turner Field.

“I felt like I never got in that groove,’’ said Eovaldi, whose worst big-league start to date was an eight-run, 10-hit loss to the Giants on June 25.

“When I was ahead, I never got guys out. They took all my off-speed pitches and hit the fastballs really well. It was just one of those nights.’’

The bright spot for the Marlins: Jose Reyes, who extended his career-long hitting streak to 20 games with a leadoff triple in the sixth inning and scored on Carlos Lee’s sacrifice fly to right.

The Marlins, who have scored the fewest runs in baseball since the All-Star break (49), were held to eight hits as they fell to 3-9 against Atlanta (60-45) this season. Gorkys Hernandez, who got his first start for the Marlins in center field, finished 0 for 4.

Since Stanton’s surgery on July 8, the Marlins have failed to score more than four runs in 18 of their past 21 games and are 7-14.

Thursday, left-hander Mike Minor, one of the few Braves the Marlins have had success against this season, held the Marlins to just two hits over 3 2/3 innings before the rains came and delayed the game for 42 minutes.

The Braves bullpen shut the door from there — protecting the cushion the offense built with a pair of three-run innings in the first and second.

Eovaldi gave up five hits in the first inning, including an RBI double to Chipper Jones and an RBI single to Dan Uggla. In the second, Jason Heyward connected on an RBI single to left before Freddie Freeman smacked a two-run double into the gap.

Eovaldi, who picked up a win in his first Marlins start last weekend, threw 64 pitches, 37 for strikes.

The Marlins, who play a doubleheader Friday in Washington, got four innings out of long reliever Chad Gaudin, who now won’t be available if things go bad for Brad Hand in Game 1 against the Nationals. But Guillen was happy Gaudin and Dan Jennings saved the bullpen from being overworked.

“We have a doubleheader [Friday], and it was a big thought on the bench,’’ Guillen said. “Gaudin and D.J. did a tremendous job. They saved us for [Friday]."

What could make Guillen even feel better is what his biggest offensive weapon did in Brevard County.

Playing in his first Florida State League game since 2009, Stanton didn’t take long to make himself feel at home.

After flying out to left field in his first at-bat, he crushed a three-run home run to right field in his second plate appearance before driving home another run later with a line-drive single to center.

Stanton, who hopes to return to the Marlins when they open a three-game series against the Mets on Tuesday at CitiField, finished 2 for 5 with four RBI as the designated hitter in a 9-0 win for the Hammerheads in Melbourne.

“I feel good and am ready to get going,” Stanton told the Palm Beach Post afterward.

Marlins 2010 first-round pick Christian Yelich, who could be Stanton’s teammate with Marlins in another year or two, took to Twitter to welcome Stanton back to his old stomping grounds.

But Stanton, who put on his usual batting practice power display before the game, thrilling those in attendance by sending numerous balls out of Space Coast Stadium, isn’t expected to be with the Hammerheads long.

All Stanton is scheduled to play as of now, the Marlins say, is a home game Friday night in Jupiter against the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs. He’s expected to test his knee out in the outfield. After that, Stanton could get a day off and rejoin the Marlins when they leave for New York.

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