Fifteen years ago this fall, the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win their first World Series.
Since then, the Marlins have remained successful in their rare meetings with the Indians.
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Carlos Zambrano hopes for another strong outing as the Miami Marlins look to prevent the AL Central-leading Indians from a season-high fifth straight victory Friday night at Progressive Field.
The image of Edgar Renteria’s game-winning single off Cleveland’s Charles Nagy in the bottom of the 11th inning of a 3-2 Game 7 victory Oct. 26, 1997, is forever etched in the minds of Marlins fans. Since that memorable night, the Marlins are 6-3 against the Indians (22-16). Miami took two of three in its only regular season trip to Cleveland in 2004, but the Indians returned the favor in Florida three years later.
Despite a 7-0 loss at Atlanta on Thursday, Miami (20-17) is 12-4 after dropping eight of nine to conclude April. Though the Marlins went 8-10 against the AL in 2011, their 135-117 all-time interleague record is the best among NL teams.
Miami also leads the NL with 1,212 runs and 2,283 hits during interleague action. Hanley Ramirez is batting .381 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 11 games versus AL opponents.
That overall success has first-year Miami manager Ozzie Guillen – formerly of the Chicago White Sox – excited about facing the AL once again.
“I love it,” Guillen told the Marlins’ official website. “It’s a great idea for baseball. I think people like it.”
He’s also excited about the way Zambrano (1-2, 1.88 ERA) has pitched. After finally wearing out his welcome with the Cubs, the right-hander has rebounded with the Marlins. Zambrano has yielded one earned run, 13 hits and struck out 21 in 23 innings while going 1-0 in three May starts – all Miami victories.
“I’m just having fun,” Zambrano said. “I’m enjoying my time here in Miami, and it’s everything I was looking for.”
He allowed his only earned run of the month and five hits in seven innings Sunday, not factoring in the decision of an 8-4 win over the New York Mets.
“I don’t want to say he’s back to the top of his game, but very close to that,” Guillen said. “He’s showing people he can still pitch.”
Zambrano, 9-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 25 interleague starts, gave up two runs in six innings of a 9-2 Cubs victory at Cleveland on June 21, 2006.
He’ll try to contain an Indians lineup that has totaled 25 runs and 42 hits during a four-game winning streak. Carlos Santana’s RBI single capped a two-run 11th inning in Thursday’s 6-5 victory over Seattle.
Santana is 7 for 17 (.412) with four RBIs in his last five games.
Teammate Travis Hafner is batting .358 with six homers and 16 RBIs during a 15-game interleague home hitting streak, but it’s uncertain if he’ll play after being hit in the hand by a pitch Thursday.
“It got swollen up,” Hafner said. “I iced it up. I think there’s definitely a chance I can play (Friday).”
Scheduled Indians starter Justin Masterson (1-3, 5.40) is 2-4 with a 4.23 ERA in nine career interleague starts, and pitched one scoreless inning of relief against the Marlins while with Boston in 2009.
The right-hander looks to bounce back after allowing six runs and hitting three batters Sunday in six innings of a 12-1 road loss to the Red Sox.
Cleveland went 11-7 during interleague play in 2011, improving to 129-136 all-time.