The last time the Atlanta Braves had a .500 record was the first time it was possible.
1-1.If they don't open a three-game home series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night with a victory, they'll be back to the break-even mark for the first time since April 1.Atlanta's slide has quickened considerably over the last two-plus weeks, and it reached this point after Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.It also lost Justin Upton, who exited the game with a strained left hamstring and is considered day to day. The left fielder has eight of the team's 22 RBIs in the past seven games.The Braves (61-60) are 3-12 since July 29, so welcoming baseball's best team to town might not sound ideal."We've still got 41 games left," said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is batting .517 over his last eight games. "We can still make something of this if we keep grinding."The Braves are 4-10 in interleague play this season while the A's are 10-2.Oakland (73-48), however, has also hit a rough patch, albeit significantly more contained. The A's have dropped four of five after Thursday's 7-3 defeat in Kansas City.On a bright note for the Braves, it's Alex Wood's turn in the rotation, which has at least meant a strong performance on the mound lately. Wood (8-9, 3.08 ERA) was near his strongest in Sunday's 3-1 win over Washington, surrendering a run and five hits in 7 1/3 innings while racking up 12 strikeouts and 124 pitches, both career highs."It was just going to be his game," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "We were going to try to take him as far as we could."Wood is 1-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his last three outings with 25 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. The left-hander has never faced the A's but is 2-1 with a 0.48 ERA in three career interleague starts.For Oakland, Jason Hammel (1-4, 5.90) has started to straighten things out in his last two starts following a disastrous first four after being acquired from the Cubs.He's allowed one run in 12 innings, and he held Minnesota to a run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings of Sunday's 6-1 loss. He wasn't stuck with the decision, and A's manager Bob Melvin said it was the best stuff he's seen from Hammel."I had to stay the course," Hammel said. "I've pitched enough to know you just keep going, you keep working at it and pitching through it. It was just a matter of going out there, trusting my stuff and keep competing."A start against the NL could be especially therapeutic. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA this season in 16 starts against the NL, 15 of which came before he was traded.One of those came in Atlanta on May 9, and Hammel held the Braves to two runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss. His only other start against the Braves in the past three years was a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory for Baltimore on June 16, 2012.Freeman is 4 for 5 with a home run against Hammel while Jason Heyward is 7 for 12.Oakland catcher John Jaso is in a 4-for-34 slump to begin August.A's shortstop Jed Lowrie landed on the disabled list Thursday with a hairline fracture in right index finger. Lowrie had been trying to play through the injury since getting hurt Aug. 4.