Astros-Marlins Preview

Hanley Ramirez isn’t playing in next week’s All-Star game, but

he’s finally looking more like a three-time All-Star following a

lengthy slump.

Ramirez looks to stay hot as the Florida Marlins try to match

their season-high four-game winning streak Saturday night against

the Houston Astros.

After hitting .300 or better each of the last four years,

Ramirez was hitting .200 through June 20. Since then, he’s batted

.400 while driving in 18 runs in 16 games, going 3 for 3 with home

run and a walk in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Astros.

“When you go through those moments you just have to fight and

fight,” Ramirez said of his early struggles. “I wasn’t feeling

anything at home plate. I was a different guy.”

Ramirez is 13 for 29 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in July.

Mike Stanton has also been hot this month, driving in a pair of

runs Friday to give him five RBIs in the last three games.

The duo has helped Florida (41-48) win the first two games of

this series after it beat Philadelphia 7-6 in 10 innings Wednesday.

The Marlins have won seven of 10 overall and Saturday can match

their longest winning streak of the season, set April 19-22.

The team is hitting .323 the last three games, scoring 18

runs.

“I told you guys, when we beat the Phillies in that walkoff,

that was going to be our rhythm,” Ramirez said. “Everything has

been working.”

Florida is 4-1 against the Astros (30-60) this year and has won

12 of the last 14 between the teams at home.

Ramirez has hit well against Saturday’s scheduled starter Brett

Myers (3-8, 4.67 ERA), who will try to avoid a third straight loss.

The right-hander gave up five runs and a career-high 13 hits in six

innings of a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday.

Myers is 0-4 with a 7.90 ERA in his last six starts against

Florida. He did not receive the decision in a 7-5 Houston win over

the Marlins last year after giving up four runs in seven

innings.

Ramirez is 11 for 31 against Myers with a home run and three

doubles.

Myers takes the mound after Houston set a franchise record for

losses before the All-Star break Friday. The Astros have dropped 12

of their last 14, totaling eight runs in their last five

defeats.

Michael Bourn continues to be one of the few consistently

productive players for Houston, adding another two hits Friday.

He’s hitting .330 over the last 21 games.

Hunter Pence is 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in this series

while Jeff Keppinger is 1 for 8.

The Astros hope to do more damage against Ricky Nolasco (5-5,

3.91) than the last time they faced him.

Nolasco was sharp against Houston on April 8, giving up two runs

in eight innings of a 4-3 victory – his fourth win in five starts

versus the Astros.

Despite losing five of his last six decisions overall, Nolasco

has pitched well lately. After a five-hit shutout against Oakland

on June 29, he gave up one run in seven innings of a 1-0 loss to

Philadelphia on Monday.