Marlins-Rays Preview

A .500 record used to be considered a success for the Florida

Marlins. Now as the Miami Marlins, it’s a disappointment.

They may be hard-pressed to move back above the break-even mark

against James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays.

With Hanley Ramirez possibly back in the lineup, the Marlins

will try to overcome their struggles against Shields and end an

eight-game skid versus the Rays on Saturday night.

Though they do have two World Series titles to their credit, the

Marlins (32-32) have spent much of their history as one of the

thriftiest teams in baseball. That status changed dramatically in

the offseason, when they mounted a free-agent spending spree

coinciding with a new stadium in an effort to transform into an

instant – and consistent – NL East contenders.

They certainly haven’t looked like contenders while losing nine

of their last 10 games behind an anemic offense that’s totaled 17

runs and compiled a .182 average during the slump.

Marlins batters failed to do much of anything in the opener of

this three-game Citrus Series on Friday, when a single by Donovan

Solano was Miami’s only hit in an 11-0 loss to the Rays

(36-28).

“Offense? We still have that?” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I

don’t remember seeing a team struggle from the first to ninth

hitter. We try. I don’t know if we try too hard.

“Last week we had the best ballclub in baseball. This week we’ve

got the worst club in baseball.”

The Marlins have played like cellar dwellers for some time

against Tampa Bay, batting .169 at the plate with two homers and 13

runs during their eight straight losses in this series.

Showing improvement against Shields (7-4, 4.06 ERA) will be a

tall order since the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.36 ERA in his

last four appearances – three starts – versus the Marlins. He

yielded one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-2 victory at

Miami on Sunday.

Shields, though, is 0-2 with a 5.12 ERA in his last three starts

at home.

Miami may get a lift if Hanley Ramirez is back after he was

scratched from the lineup for the series opener after a ball hit

him in the nose during batting practice. Solano took his place at

third base.

“He’s fine,” Guillen said of Ramirez. “He’s got something

slight, a little bit broke. The doctor says he can play.”

Ramirez has three hits in his last two games shaking out of a

1-for-22 slump over the previous seven. However, he is 2 for 22

with seven strikeouts in his last seven games against the Rays.

Giving the ball to Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 3.40) may not inspire

much confidence in the Marlins, either. He’s lost five of his last

six starts with a 4.85 ERA in that span.

The right-hander took the loss opposite Shields on Sunday,

allowing four runs in six innings.

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