Marlins aim to avoid Boston sweep with Big Z

BY foxsports • June 21, 2012

Tune into FOX Sports Florida at 6:30 p.m. to watch the Miami Marlins take on the Boston Red Sox.

The Boston Red Sox have had little trouble scoring runs over the last three games. That's not been the case during Daisuke Matsuzaka's two starts this season.

Looking for a fifth straight win, the Red Sox hope to give Matsuzaka some support Thursday night and complete a home sweep of the reeling Miami Marlins.

Boston (35-33) has totaled 29 runs and 38 hits in the last three of a four-game winning streak. The Red Sox recorded 16 of those hits during Wednesday's 15-5 rout of Miami, which has dropped three in a row and 12 of 14.

With Dustin Pedroia out after re-aggravating his injured thumb in Tuesday's 7-5 win, David Ortiz hit a grand slam as Boston won for the sixth time in seven games to move out of last place in the AL East.

"Hitting is definitely contagious and so is winning," said shortstop Mike Aviles, batting .345 in his last seven games. "Any time you get a couple of wins together you just get that good confidence going and you just keep rolling with it and that's where we're at right now."

Ortiz, 9 for 20 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last six games, has a chance to homer in four straight contests for the first time since Aug. 9-12, 2001.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 5 for 9 with two home runs in his last three games after going 2 for 26 in his previous seven.

While it's uncertain if Pedroia will play in the finale, the Red Sox would settle for even a portion of their production from Wednesday to help support Matsuzaka (0-2, 5.73 ERA).

After missing more than a year while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander is still trying to find his rhythm after two starts. His teammates, however, have totaled two runs over those outings and none with him on the mound.

He gave up three runs and walked three in six innings of a 3-0 loss to the Cubs on Friday.

This is the first time Matsuzaka will face a Marlins team that is 4-13 in June after going 21-8 in May. Omar Infante had three hits Wednesday as Miami (33-35) made strides by posting five runs for the second consecutive game after failing to score that many in each of its previous 12 contests.

"It's going to happen," said outfielder Logan Morrison, who hit his seventh homer and second in as many games. "Everybody's positive to get it done.

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton is one Marlin waiting to breaking out of a 1-for-19 slump over the last five games.

Miami starting pitchers have a 5.94 ERA this month after posting a 3.53 ERA in May.

"When the starting pitchers don't give you what you want, you can get into a lot of trouble," manager Ozzie Guillen said.

After tagging Ricky Nolasco for nine runs in 3 1-3 innings, the Red Sox try to hand Carlos Zambrano (4-5, 3.92) a third consecutive losing start Thursday.

In his last two outings - both against Tampa Bay - Zambrano has allowed 11 runs and walked nine in 4 1-3 innings. After back stiffness forced him to exit after giving up seven runs in 2 1-3 innings of a 13-4 loss to the Rays on June 9, Zambrano left after giving up four runs and six walks in two innings of an 11-0 loss at Tropicana Field on Friday.

"Back is all right," Zambrano said. "I still believe in myself."

The right-hander has a 5.91 ERA and no record in two starts against the Red Sox.

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