Miami Marlins at Houston Astros series primer

On Thursday, Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded his first three-hits-or-more game since May 16, including the go-ahead RBI single in the ninth.

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Last season’s two most futile clubs meet this weekend for a three-game series.

In 2013, the Miami Marlins dropped 100 games for just the second time in franchise history. This year, the Marlins (48-53), winners of four of their last five, are fresh off their first four-game series win in Atlanta since 2007. Still, they find themselves eight back in the National League East behind the Washington Nationals.

The Houston Astros (42-60), who lost 111 games last season, are fourth in the American League West and sit 21 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics. They have dropped four of six to start the second half.

For the first time, these clubs will face each other in Interleague Play. The Astros moved to the AL last year. Houston slugger George Springer, who has knocked 20 homers, is on the disabled list.

Miami’s trio of starters who snapped last week’s six-game skid and began a three-game win streak will pitch against the Astros.

Left-hander Brad Hand opens the set fresh off his first win as a starter since 2011. Matching his career high with seven innings, he allowed just two runs on six hits against the San Francisco Giants. Hand has a 3.63 ERA in four starts since rejoining the rotation. Southpaw Dallas Keuchel, part of the AL’s Final Vote, is 2-3 with a 5.02 ERA in his last six starts. He opened the year 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA.

Right-hander Tom Koehler has a quality start in five of his last six outings but just one win to show for it. In his last start against the Atlanta Braves, he gave up one run on five hits in 6 2/3 frames with seven strikeouts for a no decision. Righty Jarred Cosart has surrendered 14 runs over his past 15 2/3 innings during a three-start stretch. For a club 18 below .500, the Astros are 11-8 in his starts.

Righty Jacob Turner’s return to the rotation was a solid one in Atlanta on Tuesday. After being relegated to the bullpen as a long reliever for a month, Turner went five innings and permitted two runs on 82 pitches. He retired 13 of the final batters. His ERA dropped from 6.23 to 6.03.

Carl Pavano Q&A

Here’s a look at the upcoming Marlins-Astros series…

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO’S HOT

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins): Entering Thursday, Saltalmacchia had the lowest average (.223) among Marlins regulars. He would record his first three-hits-or-more game since May 16, including the go-ahead RBI single in the ninth. Salty finished the Braves series 4 for 11.

2B Jose Altuve (Astros): The All-Star continues to hit — going 6 for 15 with two runs in three games against the Oakland Athletics. Over his past 10 contests, he has five multi-hit games, including four of the last five. Altuve paces the AL with a .338 average and 139 hits.

WHO’S NOT

3B Casey McGehee (Marlins): As hot and consistent as McGehee has been, he is hitless over his last 12 at-bats with two strikeouts and three double plays for a season-long slump. His average has dipped from .322 to .312.

3B Matt Dominguez (Astros): Miami’s former top prospect went just 2 for 13 with a run and three strikeouts in the A’s series after going 3 for 5 with four RBI in the finale against the Chicago White Sox last weekend. He is hitting .220 over his last 10 games and .236 for the season.

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STORYLINES

24: One-run wins for the Marlins. They are 24-16.

0.00: ERA for Marlins lefty Brad Hand against the Astros (one start). In his first win on July 7, 2011, he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits.

108: Homers for the Astros, third most in the AL

78: Stolen bases for Houston, second most in the AL

QUOTE BOARD

"We talked about that last game against San Francisco hopefully being a momentum builder for us and turns out we played good here. We won three out of four and this has been a really tough place for us to play, and it’s good to see us find a way. It was by no means perfect. Henderson (Alvarez) did a great job, pitched his butt off and Fish Style I guess. Strike three, two wild pitches and a knock. We’ll take it." — Manager Mike Redmond, to reporters in Atlanta, on taking the series against the Braves

"At the beginning of the year it’s always the focus to give 100 percent for my team and do my best. I’m always out there and focused in all my starts. That’s what I try to do." — Right-hander Henderson Alvarez, to reporters in Atlanta, on going eight innings after exiting his last start in the third with an injury

LOOKING AHEAD

July 28-30 — Nationals at Marlins

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.