So much for thinking the Braves would need to simply keep their heads above water as they progressed through the first few weeks of this season with an injury-depleted starting rotation. With May just a day away, they are comfortably positioned at the top of the National League East thanks to a rotation that has easily been baseball's best thus far.
When attempting to explain how Atlanta's rotation has significantly exceeded expectations, one has to look no further than Aaron Harang, who has arguably been baseball's biggest surprise. Thus, it only seems fitting that the Braves will conclude their odds-defying April on Wednesday night by sending Harang to the mound to oppose Nathan Eovaldi and the Marlins at Marlins Park.
Harang will carry a Major League-best 0.85 ERA into this contest that serves as a rematch of a matchup the Braves won last Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field. After Harang and Eovaldi both allowed just one run through six innings, Atlanta broke through against Miami's bullpen with a pair of decisive eighth-inning runs.
The Braves' rotation has allowed two earned runs or less in 22 of its first 25 games and fashioned a Major League-best 1.90 ERA, despite the fact that the Marlins tagged Alex Wood for seven earned runs in five innings on the way to winning Tuesday's series opener.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2011 Phillies (1.96 in June) and the '12 Nationals (1.78 in April) are the only other clubs whose rotation has posted a sub-2.00 ERA in any month during the Wild Card Era.
When Harang signed with the Braves on March 24, he was regarded as a Band-Aid for a rotation that had already lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries. The 35-year-old veteran has obviously proven to be much more as he has spent the past month leading the Majors in ERA and ranking second in opponents' batting average (.143). He has carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning twice this season.
"I'm impressed and I'm happy [Harang] has been doing it," Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "Hopefully, he keeps doing it the whole year. Hopefully, he's that guy. You don't expect that day in and day out. But it's nice to see."
Eovaldi has surrendered just one earned run over the 12 innings he has totaled in his past two starts. The unearned run he surrendered last week in Atlanta played a part in his getting his third consecutive no-decision.
Braves: J-Up rises again in April
Justin Upton might not be named the National League's Player of the Month in April for a second straight season. But his numbers during this year's opening month are nearly as impressive.
Upton enters this month's final game having hit .330 with seven home runs and a 1.031 OPS. Last year, he exited April hitting .298 with 12 home runs and a 1.136 OPS.
"We've seen this from him before," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When he gets hot, he can carry your team."
A hot start is nothing new for Upton, who has hit 36 career home runs during the season's opening month. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only players with more home runs in March/April since 2008 are Albert Pujols (40) and Ryan Braun (38).
Harang will be hoping to see Upton end this month by extending his damage away from Turner Field. The left fielder has hit seven of his eight home runs at home this year.
Marlins: Club enjoys home cooking
Miami has achieved a home-field advantage at Marlins Park. The club has won three of its four home series. On the road, it's a different story.
The Marlins are a mere 2-10 on the road, including dropping two of three recently at Turner Field.
Cleaning up mistakes is key if Miami is to reverse its road struggles.
"I think we've faced some good pitching on the road, and in a few instances, we haven't helped ourselves out -- situationally -- hitting and defense," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've made some mistakes, some pitching mistakes. You can't really point to one spot. We just haven't played well enough on the road yet to win ballgames. We have to do a better job of that, in terms of execution. At the same time, too, we're not out of games, either. I think that's a good sign.
"We realize we can clean up the areas where we need to play better, and execute. When we do that, we're going to win ballgames. Now it's just a matter of going out and doing it."
• Since struggling in two appearances after resting his right shoulder for a week, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has worked three consecutive scoreless innings. He is seven saves shy of matching John Smoltz's franchise record of 154.
• Giancarlo Stanton's two-run homer on Tuesday gave him 31 RBIs in March/April, setting a Marlins' record. Moises Alou had 30 in 1997.
• Marlins infielder Jeff Baker snapped an 0-for-25 slide with a single in the sixth inning on Tuesday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.