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Braves-Marlins Preview

For the Miami Marlins' current slump, there's plenty of blame to go around.

None, though, should go to Giancarlo Stanton.

Following yet another wasted home run by Stanton, the Marlins will turn to Henderson Alvarez in his first start off the disabled list Sunday against an Atlanta Braves team looking for its second consecutive sweep in Miami.

Stanton launched a 478-foot solo shot Saturday in a 5-3 loss to Atlanta (17-19), his third homer of the series and fourth in four games. He has two other tape-measure shots in that span, including one Friday and another that left Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, but Miami also lost both of those games. He's driven in seven of Miami's 12 runs over the past four games and ranks atop baseball with 36 RBIs.

Still, the Marlins (16-21) keep losing. They've dropped five of six, failing to score more than three runs in each defeat.

Stanton has 11 of Miami's 24 home runs.

"We need to get some guys going," reliever Tom Koehler said. "His enormous home runs don't really mean much - they still only count as one. We've got to put it all together."

Saturday's loss saw Miami drop to 0-8 when allowing 12 or more hits, and Mat Latos surrendered five runs - including a second-inning grand slam to Jace Peterson - before leaving in the fourth inning after being hit in the leg with a line drive.

The Marlins are batting .167 with runners in scoring position in the last five games, including 3 for 21 in this series.

"We've had some opportunities to get big hits and we haven't been able to get it," manager Mike Redmond said. "When you talk about winning ballgames and getting on those big rolls and streaks, you have to get those big two-out hits, and we just haven't been able to get them."

Miami hopes the return of its opening day starter provides a spark.

Alvarez (0-2, 4.50), sidelined since April 13 with right shoulder inflammation, posted a 2.65 ERA last season and led the Marlins to victories in both outings against Atlanta. Alvarez got another crack at the Braves on April 6 and surrendered two runs in seven innings of a 2-1 loss.

Atlanta ended up sweeping that three-game set in Miami and will look to accomplish that feat again Sunday behind Shelby Miller (4-1, 1.60).

Acquired from St. Louis in the offseason, Miller has yet to allow more than two earned runs through seven starts. He has been especially dominant over his last two, allowing one run and six hits while striking out 16 over 16 innings.

The right-hander owns a 0.90 ERA in two outings against the Marlins this year, both Braves' victories.

"Shelby Miller is as good as you want him to be," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a special guy."

He'll pitch in front of an offense that had all eight positional starters notch hits on Saturday. Peterson's home run was the first of his career and Todd Cunningham, called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, is 6 for 8 with three runs in the series.

Freddie Freeman is 6 for 18 with one home run and three doubles against Alvarez, who is looking to avoid starting a season 0-3 for the first time.

Stanton is hitless against Miller this season but belted two home runs against the right-hander on Aug. 11.

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