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Braves Try To Hang Onto Wild Card Lead Tonight Against Marlins

(Sports Network) - Though the National League East crown is no longer an option, the Atlanta Braves aren't down and out yet.

After grabbing the NL Wild Card lead with last night's extra-inning victory, Tim Hudson and the Braves try to make it two in a row this evening in the middle portion of a three-game series with the Florida Marlins at Turner Field.

While the Philadelphia Phillies clinched their fourth straight NL East title on Monday, the Braves posted a 2-1 victory over the Marlins later in the night to move a half-game ahead of San Diego in the wild-card race. Omar Infante gave his team the 11-inning victory when his broken-bat single down the left- field line with two outs scored Nate McLouth.

The victory was just Atlanta's second in seven games.

"You want to and you need to win every game that we have left in the season, which is only five now," Braves right fielder Jason Heyward said afterward. "It's a big win tonight. You won the game tonight, that's all we can honestly control. That's the only thing in our hands."

Atlanta's playoff hopes did suffer a minor blow last night, when All-Star Martin Prado exited early due to a left hip pointer suffered while making a diving catch in the fourth inning. He stayed in the game, but aggravated the injury at the plate during the next frame.

Though Prado is termed day-to-day, he could be sidelined for an extended period. He is hitting .307 with 15 homers, 66 RBI and 100 runs scored in 140 games this year.

Brad Davis doubled home Florida's only run during the eighth inning as the Marlins lost for the fourth time in five games.

"We just came up short," Florida's Dan Uggla said. "They made some plays tonight. If things would have gone our way a little bit more, we could have had two or three runs maybe. You never know."

The Marlins also came up short the last time they faced Hudson, who struck out a career-high 13 batters during seven innings of one-run ball in an Aug. 28 victory that improved him to 9-3 with a 2.91 earned run average lifetime versus Florida.

Hudson, though, has lost four of his last five starts and allowed four or more runs in three of those games, and will pitch on short rest tonight for the first time since 2006 due to Jair Jurrjens' knee injury and recent struggles by young hurler Mike Minor.

The 35-year-old last pitched Friday at Washington and gave up six runs on seven hits and six walks over 5 2/3 innings to take the loss and fall to 16-9 with a 2.80 ERA in 32 starts. The right-handed Hudson also allowed a pair of homers for a third start in a row.

Hudson likely won't have to face Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who isn't expected to start any of his team's final six games due to a pair of elbow injuries. Ramirez hadn't played since last Tuesday before pinch-running in last night's game, and is only expected to be available for that role.

Marlins hurler Anibal Sanchez will try to make do as he takes a third try at winning his 13th game of the season.

The 26-year-old righty dropped his second straight start on Thursday, yielding five runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings of an 8-3 setback in Milwaukee. He fell to 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 30 starts this season.

Sanchez has split two decisions versus the Braves this year and is 4-6 with a 4.50 ERA against them lifetime.

The Braves hold a slim 9-7 advantage over the Marlins in the season series, taking five of seven so far at Turner Field.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.