Astros-Marlins Preview

The Florida Marlins will be in the NL East basement heading into

the All-Star break, but that could be a temporary spot the way the

club is playing.

The host Marlins try to win a season-best fifth straight Sunday

when they go for the four-game sweep against the major league-worst

Houston Astros.

Moving past a 1-19 skid from June 1-20 that saw 80-year-old Jack

McKeon return to the dugout to replace former manager Edwin

Rodriguez, the Marlins (42-48) are enjoying one of their best

stretches of the season, winning eight of 11 to inch within 2 1/2

games of fourth-place Washington in the East.

Florida, a 6-1 winner Saturday, last posted five consecutive

victories Aug. 17-21.

The Marlins, who are batting .300 (39 for 130) and averaging 6.0

runs during their current surge, have outscored Houston 104-53

while winning 13 of 15 at home in this matchup.

That kind of production could help Chris Volstad (4-8, 5.46

ERA), Sunday’s scheduled starter. The right-hander is coming off

one of his worst starts of the season, a 14-2 loss to Philadelphia

on Tuesday when he gave up seven runs and nine hits over four

innings in his shortest outing since May 30.

“They just see me really well. I don’t know what else to say,”

Volstad told the Marlins’ official website.

He might not have to worry about that against the light-hitting

Astros (30-61), who are batting .194 with four total runs in this

series.

Houston has lost 16 of 19 to fall 31 games below .500 for the

first time since finishing 65-97 in 1991.

“This is something that not a lot of us have been through

before,” third baseman Chris Johnson said. “Personally, I’ve never

been on a team that’s struggled like this.”

The Astros will try to end the first half on a positive note

with Wandy Rodriguez (6-5, 3.25) on the mound. The left-hander is

3-2 since a stint on the disabled list with an elbow injury,

throwing shutout ball in three of those outings and giving up five

runs in the other two.

Rodriguez surrendered five runs and eight hits through six

innings in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh.

“I had bad luck today,” he said. “I threw a lot of good

pitches, but they hit the ball, broken-bat base hits. A bad day,

but that’s what happens some times.”

Rodriguez is 3-2 with a 2.18 ERA in seven starts versus Florida

after throwing seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-3 home loss to

the Marlins on April 8.

Hanley Ramirez, 7 for 17 with two triples off the left-hander,

is making a strong push to the All-Star break by batting .381 (24

for 63) with four homers and 20 RBIs over the last 17 games.

Left fielder Logan Morrison is 6 for 16 with a homer and eight

RBIs during the Marlins’ winning streak after knocking in a

season-best three runs Saturday. He has four hits – including a

double – in six at-bats off Rodriguez.

Before competing in his second All-Star Game, Hunter Pence will

try to end an 0-for-11 skid in this series. The Astros right

fielder is 4 for 11 off Volstad.