Miami faces Astros in first full series at home
Ozzie Guillen will not be in the dugout this weekend when the Miami Marlins play the first full series in their new ballpark. After the new manager's recent comments about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, that might be for the best.
With Guillen in the midst of a five-game suspension, the Marlins hope their fans remain supportive as they try to overcome a rough first week of the season and continue their home success against the Houston Astros on Friday night.
The opinionated Guillen told Time magazine that he loves Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for his long reign. Though Guillen later apologized and said he does not love Castro, his initial comments antagonized a large percentage of the team's fan base, especially among Miami's large Cuban population.
While the Marlins slapped Guillen with a suspension through Sunday, they hope his comments won't hinder any interest the club gained by building a new ballpark in the Little Havana neighborhood, changing the team name and uniforms and bringing in free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.
"We represent this community, and this community was very hurt," team president David Samson said. "And it's time to heal."
Playing better baseball might help.
The Marlins are coming off a 2-4 trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia after christening their new park with a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on April 4. Miami has been held to one run in each game while dropping the last two without Guillen, going 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
"There's only so long you can keep saying that it's early before you just have to start doing it," said outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who went 0 for 4 in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Phillies. "But it'll be good for us to get home, and get a full series in."
A visit from Houston (3-3) also could help the Marlins get on track.
Winners in 14 of 16 at home against the Astros, the Marlins outscored them 22-8 while sweeping a four-game set at their old park last season.
Scheduled starter Ricky Nolasco has posted a 1.73 ERA with 20 strikeouts, one walk and two complete games while winning his last three starts against the Astros. The right-hander yielded three runs on a pair of homers in eight innings of the Marlins' 8-3 win at Cincinnati on Saturday.
Houston's Lucas Harrell has never faced Miami, but he takes the mound Friday trying to build on a strong season debut. The right-hander allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings in a 7-3 win over Colorado on Saturday, striking out four without a walk.
Houston hits the road for the first time looking to avoid a third straight defeat after falling 6-3 to Atlanta on Wednesday. J.D. Martinez homered and had two RBIs, but the Astros committed four errors and stranded 10 runners, leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and seventh innings.
"We're putting ourselves in position to score runs and the guys are playing with their hearts," manager Brad Mills told the Astros' official website. "The heart gets in the way sometimes, and I think that might have to do with some of those errors they've made. As we move forward, I can see that getting a lot better."
Martinez, a Miami native of Cuban descent set for his first MLB games in his hometown, is 8 for 22 with two homers and six RBIs this season.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie could make his Astros debut Friday after beginning the season on the disabled list with a sprained right thumb.
Acquired from Boston in a trade during the offseason, Lowrie missed almost two months because of a shoulder injury last year, when he hit .252 with six home runs and 36 RBIs in a career-high 88 games for the Red Sox.