MIAMI - John Smoltz turned in the quality start Tuesday night that the Braves needed to get out of their current funk.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, young Florida starter Josh Johnson has been better than average in his early career against the division's traditional bullies.
Johnson allowed a run in six innings, and the Marlins kept the Braves tumbling after a 4-1 victory before all of 6,940 fans at quiet Dolphins Stadium.
Atlanta has now lost 12 of 15 games since May 29. The team is 1-4 on its current road trip after stumbling through a 2-8 homestand.
If the New York Mets held on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves (30-35) would trail by 11 games in the National League East.
They haven't been down that many games since the 1990 season, a year before their string of division titles began. Atlanta lost the division, when it was still a member of the NL West, by 26 games that year.
Johnson has given up five earned runs in four career starts against the Braves. And the 22-year-old has made just nine career starts.
Johnson's performance squandered an effective outing by Smoltz, who pitched six innings and gave up three runs.
Fittingly, Johnson's two-out double in the fifth drove in the Marlins' third run. He drilled an 0-2 pitch from Smoltz off the left-field wall to score Alfredo Amezaga.
Mike Jacobs homered in the first to give the early lead to Florida, which has won three of its past four series.
Atlanta tried to rally off Johnson (5-4) in his final inning of work, starting with an Andruw Jones single to lead off the sixth. Jones was in an 0-for-12 skid, with seven strikeouts, before the hit.
Brian McCann then laced a single to right for his third hit of the night and sixth since returning Saturday from the disabled list. He walked in his other plate appearance and is hitting .368 on the year.
Jones then scored on Jeff Francoeur's loud single - a 350-foot rope off the towering wall in left field.
Adam LaRoche killed the rally with a double play.
The Braves (30-35) struck out 10 times, the 16th time in 64 games this season they've struck out 10 or more times. Florida still leads the majors, with 502 strikeouts, but the Braves, with 495, gained on them Tuesday.
Reach R. Travis Haney at email@example.com.
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