The Marlins' grip in the National League East race has steadily loosened as a once tightly packed division takes shape as a two-team race. But with a four-game set against the first-place Braves at Turner Field on tap, Miami has a chance to climb the ladder.
Tom Koehler makes his first start of the second half for Miami on Monday night. The right-hander seeks his first career win over the Braves, a team he is 0-2 against with a 3.62 ERA in seven games, including four starts.
Koehler enjoyed a solid first half, logging 112 2/3 innings, striking out 88 in 19 starts.
"You hope to come back from the break and start off on a good note," Koehler said. "You really want to finish strong and give it all you've got for the last two months."
If the Marlins are to make up ground, they are going to have to take care of business against their NL East rivals.
"You approach it just like any other game," Koehler said. "You try to throw quality strikes early, and just keep your team in the game and go for as long as they allow you. Obviously, going out there with a good performance in the first game [of the series] gives everybody a boost. At the same time, we've played so many games at this point. You just want to go out there and keep your team in it and try to win the game."
For the Braves, Julio Teheran will get his first crack at trying to build off of an All-Star first half. Atlanta's ace went 9-6 with a 2.71 ERA and 116-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 136 1/3 innings.
"I'm happy with what I did in the first half and what the team did," Teheran said. "I'm just trying to give [the same effort] into the second half, and I hope we'll get better this time."
The 23-year-old right-hander struggled a bit in his final two starts, giving up nine combined runs in outings against the Mets and the Cubs, but eight days in between starts will do well to wipe his memory clean. Teheran last pitched on July 13, but the extended rest shouldn't be a negative factor, according to Teheran.
"I don't think they're going to affect me, because that happened last year that I threw a couple starts with 10 days rest and it didn't affect me at all."
Marlins: Picking it up on the road
If Miami is going to make a push, it must pick its play up on the road. In the first half the Marlins were just 17-28 away from Marlins Park.
Miami headed into the All-Star break dropping four straight on the road during a 3-6 road trip.
The Marlins also have to show improvement against their NL rivals. They are 18-25 within their division. Now they get four straight at Turner Field.
"That's the name of the game; you've just got to grind through it," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
"Fortunately for us, we've got 21 games against our own division. That's big for us. Right now, it's just getting back in the groove of things."
Braves: Simmons' impressive homeless streak snapped
Shae Simmons faced 492 batters in his professional career since the Braves drafted him in the 22nd round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft before Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins became the first Major Leaguer to take him deep.
It was the first home run Simmons has allowed since his final year at Southwest Missouri State, when he gave up a long ball to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Devin Caldwell on May 18, 2012.
"It's been long enough, I guess," Simmons joked.
Rollins hit a low drive that plated the only two runs Philadelphia needed on Saturday night as Simmons suffered his first Major League loss.
The blast put into perspective not only how effective Simmons has proven at keeping the ball in the park, but how well the rookie has pitched since Atlanta purchased his contract from Double-A Mississippi on May 31.
Saturday night marked only the fourth time Simmons has allowed a run to come across in 20 2/3 innings. He owns a 2.18 ERA and his eight holds rank fourth among Braves relievers despite owning the second-lowest inning total on the active roster.
• Casey McGehee had his drought of 58 straight games without a home run snapped on Sunday when he went deep off San Francisco's Tim Lincecum in the first inning. McGehee went 231 at-bats between blasts.
• Evan Gattis went 2-for-6 as the designated hitter for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday. Atlanta's catcher is aiming to return to the Majors on Monday.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.