Cardinals-Marlins Preview

It’s been more than eight years since the St. Louis Cardinals

last lost a series in South Florida.

With a key NL Central clash on tap for this week, it will be

especially important for the Cardinals to keep that streak intact

Sunday when they decide their three-game set with the Florida

Marlins.

St. Louis (61-49) has won its series in Miami in each of the

last seven years since dropping two of three July 30-Aug. 1, 2002,

and Friday night’s 7-0 victory gave it a chance to continue that

run.

The Cardinals scored two runs in the ninth inning Saturday to

take a 4-3 lead, but Dan Uggla’s home run tied it and the Marlins

won 5-4 on Hanley Ramirez’s RBI double in the 10th.

“There was a lot of heroes,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa

said. “You just take care of what you can do and if the other side

has the last hero you just tip your hat to them.”

Ramirez’s hit ended a season-worst five-game losing streak for

Florida (54-56). The star shortstop also homered for the second

time in six August games after he was homerless in his final 24

July contests.

“The fans expect a lot of things from me so I’ve got to come

through,” Ramirez said. “They come here to watch all 25 guys, but

they expect a little bit more from me.”

La Russa may expect more from his team on the road. The

Cardinals have dropped six of their last eight road series, going

9-17 away from home since the beginning of June.

What appears to be the Cardinals’ most important remaining road

series begins Monday against Cincinnati, which has won three

straight to increase its division lead over St. Louis to 1 1/2

games.

First, Jeff Suppan (1-6, 5.72 ERA) looks to build on his first

win in nearly 11 months. In his eighth start for St. Louis since

being signed as a free agent June 14, Suppan pitched 5 1-3 shutout

innings last Saturday in an 11-1 win over Pittsburgh.

“I feel like I’m throwing better now than when I first got

here,” Suppan said. “I feel good about that. I gave everything I

could give.”

It was the veteran’s first win since Sept. 19, when he beat

Houston while with Milwaukee. Suppan spent several weeks as a

reliever for the Brewers before he was released June 7.

Florida’s Sean West (0-1, 7.20) had spent the entire season with

Triple-A New Orleans before he was called up to start Tuesday

against Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old left-hander struggled in his return to the

majors, allowing five runs and nine hits in five innings of a 6-1

loss. He pitched well against St. Louis on Sept. 15, working six

innings in a 2-1 victory.

Florida’s bullpen roles may be about to change after closer Leo

Nunez blew his second straight save opportunity Saturday. Nunez has

given up 10 hits and six runs in his last three appearances.

“The starting pitchers have been doing such a good job of

getting us there and we have to make adjustments somehow,” manager

Edwin Rodriguez said. “We can switch (closers), we can match

hitters, we have to sit down and talk.”

It’s unclear if the Marlins will have Cody Ross (stiff neck) or

Gaby Sanchez (right hamstring) in their lineup after both missed

Saturday’s game.