The Atlanta Braves get their first look at Miami Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez on Friday night when the NL East residents open up a three-game series.
The Braves are rolling towards their first division title since 2005, owning a current 13-game edge over the second-place Washington Nationals. They are coming off a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians and have won four in a row overall.
Atlanta has 29 games left in the season and its magic number to clinch the NL East is 17.
"We just have one goal," Braves pitcher Kris Medlen told his team's website after winning Sunday's finale. "Whatever our magic number is, it doesn't matter to us. We're taking it a day at a time and a team at a time. To play as well as we did against the Indians, a quality team, it's big for us."
The Braves certainly can't look past Fernandez, an NL Rookie of the Year candidate who is 10-5 with a 2.30 earned run average in 25 starts this season and has not lost since July 7.
The 20-year-old righty is 5-0 with a 1.33 ERA over his last five starts, giving up eight earned runs over 54 innings. He won his second straight start on Saturday, a 3-0 decision over visiting Colorado in which he hurled seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball. Fernandez added eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
"We've definitely seen that before. He just continues to go out there and pitch outstanding," said Miami manager Mike Redmond.
Fernandez moved to 7-0 at home, but is 3-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 12 starts on the road.
The Cuban's victory last Saturday is the only one for the Marlins over their last nine games. Miami opened up a nine-game road trip by getting swept in three contests at Washington and has lost four in a row overall.
The Marlins were held to four hits in Thursday's 9-0 loss.
"You could probably print the same stuff I've been saying all year," said Redmond. "We didn't pitch well tonight, we didn't hit, we got beat."
While Fernandez will faces the Braves for the first time, he will likely avoid going against outfielder Justin Upton. The Atlanta slugger is day-to-day with a bruised left hand after getting hit by a pitch in Thursday's win.
Upton, batting .320 with eight homers and 17 RBI since July 27, is unlikely to play tonight. That leaves another void in the outfield with Jason Heyward already likely to miss the rest of the regular season with a fractured jaw suffered when he was hit by a pitch.
Atlanta turns to Julio Teheran for this opener and the righty is 10-7 with a 3.08 ERA in 25 starts this season.
Teheran is 3-2 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts this month and is coming off a 6-2 loss at St. Louis on Saturday. The 22-year-old struggled with his command, getting touched for four runs on five hits and five walks while also striking out eight. He needed 110 pitches to get through six-plus innings.
Teheran is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two career starts versus the Marlins.
The Braves are 8-4 versus the Marlins this season.