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ATL@MIA: JJ tosses six solid frames of three-run ball

Although the Braves clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night at Turner Field, they have their sights set on a bigger goal -- catching the Nationals in the National League East.

After Washington's loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Braves are four games back of Washington in the division with eight games left on Atlanta's schedule.

"It'll be fun," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Keep playing hard, keep winning ballgames and try to dwindle that number down. ... All of a sudden [the Nats are] trying to rest guys, and if we're right behind them, they can't do that. But they're in anyway, one way or the other. It would be more fun sitting back and not playing that one-game playoff."

As the Braves try to gain more ground on the Nats, they'll turn to lefty Paul Maholm, whose last outing came against the Marlins. On Sept. 18 in Miami, Maholm pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs -- the second of which crossed the plate after he left the game in the seventh inning.

The Marlins will counter with righty Josh Johnson, who has come on strong in the second half of the season after early struggles during his return from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of last season.

Since July 23, Johnson is only 3-6, but has pitched better than his record shows. He sports a 3.01 ERA in his last 11 starts, and he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in four September starts as he has lowered his season ERA to 3.84.

With two starts remaining, Johnson is on pace to reach his preseason goal of making every start. He's also close to reaching another preseason objective -- throwing 200 innings. He enters Wednesday's start with 185 1/3 innings pitched on the year.

"To me, that doesn't matter," Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "What's five innings here or there? The fact is that he's pitched healthy all year. He's got better. And hopefully this offseason, he can rest. He can go into Spring Training with no doubt in his mind that he will be ready for next season."

Marlins: Stanton hopes to play Wednesday
• Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton expects to be back in the Marlins' lineup Wednesday barring any setbacks. The 22-year-old slugger has been sidelined since Sept. 16 due to a sore intercostal muscle.

Stanton took about 70 swings in the batting cage Tuesday, and said that while there is some discomfort, it's not enough to where he needs to be shut down for the remainder of the season.

"I figure we have one shot left in the season," Stanton said. "Do you wait out until you have two games left? Or do you push it a little early, and see what you've got?"

Braves: Chipper plans to play in remaining home games
• With just five regular-season home games remaining in Chipper Jones' career, the third baseman plans to make the most of the Braves' final homestand.

On Monday, Jones tweeted his intent to play each remaining home game. Gonzalez said so long as health allows Jones to be in the lineup, the third baseman will play during his final games at Turner Field. Jones has played on six consecutive days just twice this season, though he didn't start in all of the games.

"He wants to play all the games at home, and you can't blame him," Gonzalez said. "We sat down and spoke about it this afternoon. He wants to play all six, because he wants to be able to catch the Nationals and also give the fans here something to come out and watch."

• The Braves expect to have center fielder Michael Bourn back in the lineup Wednesday after he has been sidelined since he jammed his thumb sliding headfirst into second base Saturday.

Bourn received encouraging news on Monday when noted hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie evaluated his thumb and did not find any structural damage.

Worth noting
• If Brian McCann is in the lineup Wednesday, it will mark his 1,000th career game.

• After going 251 at-bats without a home run this season, Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano hit the first two homers of his career Tuesday. Comments