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ATL@KC: Minor fans four in strong start vs. Royals

Ricky Nolasco takes the hill against the Braves on Wednesday in what could be his final outing as a Marlin. But that reality is nothing new to the right-hander.

Trade rumors have swirled around Nolasco for weeks. Numerous playoff contenders, including several from Nolasco's home state of California, have reportedly expressed interest in the 30-year-old hurler.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who served as Nolasco's skipper with the Marlins for more than three seasons, believes Nolasco would be an asset to any club.

"He's durable," Gonzalez said. "He's a guy who gives you 33, 34 starts a year. He's a guy you know you're going to give the ball to, and he's going to get you 200-plus innings every year. He competes. Maybe he hasn't been appreciated as much as he should be. When I had him for three-plus years, you always felt good when he went out on the mound."

But as trade talks between Miami and potential suitors have reportedly intensified, Nolasco has struggled in an otherwise solid contract year.

After recording five quality starts in six tries between May 8 and June 4, Nolasco has a 5.09 ERA and only one quality start in his past four appearances.

"I think Ricky is fine," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "I think he will be great. It's like anything. He's pitched so well up to this point. You're due to have maybe a little bit of command issues or whatever.

"I know it's easy to say, 'Hey, it's because of the rumors and all that stuff.' I don't know if it bothers him. I don't know. It probably would [bother] me, if I ever [was] in any of that stuff, which I never was. But he's a pro. He handles himself like a true professional. He's been a great teammate. I totally look for him to continue to build off a great season, like he's had so far."

Facing Nolasco will be left-hander Mike Minor, who is arguably the best hurler in an Atlanta starting rotation that ranks second in the Majors with a 3.18 ERA.

Minor leads his counterparts with a 2.98 ERA and 95 strikeouts.

Marlins: LoMo, Stanton leading the charge
The Marlins have won eight of their past 11 games, including series wins against the Giants and the Padres.

Miami is 13-8 since June 9, when Logan Morrison returned to the lineup. One day later, Giancarlo Stanton rejoined Miami, kick-starting their current run.

Stanton has played every day since and delivered, batting .303 (23-for-76) with five home runs, 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored.

Other Marlins swinging the bat well include rookie Marcell Ozuna, who had a 10-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday night, and catcher Jeff Mathis.

Mathis is fresh off a series against the Padres during which he batted .400 (4-for-10) with a walk-off grand slam and nine RBIs in three games.

Right-handed bats Mathis and Justin Ruggiano will start at catcher and left field, respectively, against the southpaw Minor. Left-handed bats Juan Pierre and Rob Brantley started in the Marlins' 11-3 loss against right-hander Kris Medlen on Tuesday night.

Braves: Upton rebounding from slump
Justin Upton has been mired in a slump since he was named the National League Player of the Month for April.

His batting average dropped from .298 on April 30 to a season-low .239 on June 19, and he has hit only three home runs since clubbing 12 in his first 26 games.

However, he's picked up the slack recently, batting .355 (11-for-31) with five RBIs and seven runs scored in his past eight games.

Worth noting:
• With Tuesday night's win, the Braves are now 11-2 in games following off-days this season. They also notched their Majors-best 25th come-from-behind victory, defeating the Marlins on Tuesday after falling behind, 2-0, in the first inning.

• Tom Koehler allowed three runs (two earned) on Tuesday, marking only the fourth time in the past 15 games that a Marlins starter has yielded more than two runs.

• Right-hander Henderson Alvarez will make his season debut for the Marlins on Thursday against the Braves.

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