With the calendar flipped to July, the Marlins are not only finally starting to get healthy, but they find themselves in the midst of their hottest stretch of the season.
Miami has won six of its last seven games, but will face a difficult task on Tuesday when it opens a three-game series against the well-rested, National League East-leading Braves.
Atlanta's off-day on Monday marked the Braves' third day without a game in one week's time. They also had off-days last Monday and Thursday before starting this week with another day of rest following a weekend sweep of the D-backs.
The Braves will go for their fourth straight win -- and fourth in as many tries against the Marlins this season -- on Tuesday when they send Kris Medlen to the hill in the series opener opposite Miami right-hander Tom Koehler.
Medlen will be looking to continue a hot streak of his own. The righty has won four of his last five outings after starting the season just 1-6. Despite the still unfavorable 5-7 record, Medlen has limited the opposition to three or fewer earned runs in all but two of his 16 starts and sports a solid 3.02 ERA on the season.
As for Koehler, he too has pitched better at times than his 1-5 record may indicate. After sliding into the rotation on May 12, Koehler went winless over his next six starts despite turning in quality starts in three of his first four outings. He finally picked up his first career victory on June 20, but struggled in his follow-up performance last Wednesday.
He allowed three runs on four hits and also walked four batters while striking out one and lasting just four innings against the Twins. Koehler conceded all three runs in the first inning before battling his way through the next three in an eventual 5-3 Marlins victory.
"After a rough start like that, you can either mail it in or fight as long as you can or as long as [manager Mike Redmond] would allow me to go," Koehler said. "I was disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to get five innings, but winning changes a lot of things. Earlier in the year, we'd be down three and we'd find a way to score two and lose by one run. Right now, I think guys are playing with a lot of confidence, and I think guys are having a lot of fun.
Marlins: Rotation rounding into shape
Redmond announced that starter Henderson Alvarez will return to the rotation on Thursday.
Alvarez -- who was acquired from the Blue Jays last November as part of the blockbuster 12-player trade -- has spent the season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The rotation is starting to take form with Alvarez's debut and the recent return of starter Nathan Eovaldi.
"That's one thing we missed coming out of Spring Training," Redmond said. "Having Eovaldi and Alvarez get hurt, we weren't really able to see what those guys were capable of doing. Now it's nice to get those guys down there and create some stability and see what they can do over the course of a season."
Alvarez will follow Ricky Nolasco, who is expected to start for the Marlins on Wednesday despite being a prominent subject of trade rumors. It gives the Marlins six starters for the time being, although Redmond said a six-man rotation is not an option.
Braves: Status up in the air on Schafer, Gattis
Outfielder Jordan Schafer was still feeling tenderness in his right ankle area as of Sunday, four days after fouling a ball off the ankle last Wednesday in Kansas City. Schafer said it was the hardest he can remember being hit by a foul ball, though manager Fredi Gonzalez is hoping to get Schafer back sometime soon following Monday's off day.
"He's getting better, but he's still a little tender," Gonzalez said on Sunday. "Maybe we don't have to use him today, that's three days and then Monday off, he could progress well for the next week."
As for Evan Gattis, the slugger believes he could resume baseball activities as soon as Tuesday, but the club has yet to set a timetable for his return. The Braves say they won't do so until Gattis stops feeling soreness after stretching and rehabbing his strained right oblique.
• Medlen is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 16 career games, including six starts against the Marlins.
• The Braves, winners of each of the last three season series against the Marlins, swept the first and only meeting so far this season. Atlanta is 40-17 against Miami since the start of the 2010 season.