Ten-game trip could make or break Braves

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MIAMI - Nine days from now, the Braves could be a re-energized team, confident that they have put an ugly month of June wholly behind them. Or, they could go into the all-star break in disarray, wondering if perhaps June was a sign of things to come.

Much will depend on how Atlanta fares during a 10-game road trip that began Friday against the Florida Marlins.

After their weekend series in Miami, the Braves will fly to Los Angeles to begin a four-game series against the Dodgers. Then, in their last series before the break, the Braves will play at San Diego for three games.

"Usually you can point back to a 10-game trip over the course of the season as a breaking point or a turning point," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "If you come out of it with an 8-2, 7-3 record, it could be something that kick-starts you into the second half. On the flip side, if you go 3-7, it could be something that sends you into a tailspin."

The Braves were tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for second place in the National League East at the start of Friday night's game. But this road trip will make it challenging enough for them to keep pace in the standings, let alone move up.

The Padres and Dodgers were tied for first in the NL West entering Friday. And while the Marlins are a sub-.500 team, Dolphin Stadium is the only NL ballpark in which the Braves have a losing record since 1991 (51-57 before Friday).

HOMECOMING FOR ROOKIES: This weekend is a homecoming for rookies Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar, both of whom live in South Florida during the off-season.

Escobar lives in Kendall, Fla. The Cuban native said he was expecting a crowd that included his wife, father, sister, friends and others from the local Cuban community.

Saltalamacchia grew up near West Palm Beach, and was expecting a small crowd of family members and friends.

Reach Brian Costa at brian.costa@morris.com.


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