Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates series primer
As the famous pep talk from the 1989 film "Major League" goes, "We won a game yesterday. We win one today, that's two in a row. We win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."
Sound familiar? The Miami Marlins (17-27), who lost eight in a row before winning their final two of a 10-game homestand, hope to follow suit. Things looked bleak for most of the week -- from changing managers to bad breaks to defensive as well as baserunning miscues.
Miami fell to last place in the National League East. Now, the Marlins begin a six-game trip in Pittsburgh Monday through Wednesday. Like the Marlins, the Pirates (21-22) were also a preseason favorite to be an NL wild-card contender. Currently third in the NL Central, they come off a three-game sweep of the New York Mets.
Righty David Phelps, who had his streak of five consecutive starts of going at least six innings snapped on Wednesday, opens the series on Monday. He allowed four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in five frames. In his lone outing against the Pirates in 2014, he went five scoreless innings. Charlie Morton makes his 2015 debut after offseason hip surgery. He posted a 6-12 record and 3.72 ERA in 26 starts last season.
The Marlins have yet to announce starters for Tuesday and Wednesday. An option that doesn't require a move is going with lefty Brad Hand, who has been serving as the long reliever. He is 4-18 with a 4.58 ERA in 31 career starts -- none this season. He threw three pitches on Sunday to induce a pivotal inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Southpaw Jeff Locke, who has not won since his first two outings of the year, will start Tuesday for the Pirates. In a no decision against the Minnesota Twins, he gave up three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks in six innings. This month, Locke has gone at least six frames in three of four outings. Righty Gerrit Cole comes off the best start of his career -- 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball with a season-high 10 strikeouts.
Last season, the Marlins went 2-4 against the Pirates, including a 1-2 record at PNC Park. Miami is 31-56 in Pittsburgh and have just one win in its last nine games there.
Here's a look at the upcoming Marlins-Pirates three-game series:
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
3B Martin Prado (Marlins): After opening the homestand 8 for 41, Prado recorded the game-winning single in the 13th inning on Saturday night to snap an eight-game skid. He collected another two hits and two RBI, including a homer, in the series finale.
CF Andrew McCutchen (Pirates): On the current homestand, McCutchen is 9 for 20 (.450) with two homers and five RBI. He has a four-game hitting streak. During this stretch, his average has jumped from .225 to .261.
RF Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins): Four of his last six hits have been homers, but Stanton went just 6 for 39 (.154) with five runs, seven RBI, seven walks and 11 strikeouts over the 10 home games. While he ranks second in the NL in both homers (12) and RBI (40), Stanton's average is now .228.
2B Neil Walker (Pirates): Walker is just 2 for his last 19 at-bats (.105) with two runs, no homers, one RBI and six strikeouts over his past four games. He is hitless over his previous 15 at-bats.
16: Times Marlins runners have been caught stealing, most in the big leagues
.500: Average for Giancarlo Stanton against Jeff Locke in 12 at-bats. He has a double and two homers with two walks.
3.11: ERA for the Pirates pitching staff, second lowest in the majors
5: Wins (three losses) for Charlie Morton against the Marlins in 10 starts, most victories against any opponent. He has a 4.03 ERA.
"Wins are like donuts. You like them so much you want to keep eating them. We want to keep getting them our way." -- Manager Dan Jennings on a two-game winning streak
"It seems to me there are guys that have been long enough in the game and they've been on teams where things like this happened and it's the time to let the young guys know they don't have to panic about this kind of stuff. This kind of stuff can happen to any team in baseball. There's a lot of predictions and stats and stuff and things like that can happen to anyone. One of the things, a guy that I can name is (Jeff) Mathis. He's been trying to tell us, 'Hey man, just don't panic, What we can do is just work on your weaknesses right now to see if we can transfer that, see if things can change.' And it's been a good experience for me. You can learn...you can play for 20 years and you're still learning from baseball. It's a great group of kids and they listen. They're willing to learn, they're willing to get better and that makes our jobs easier." -- Martin Prado on the leadership
"It seems the same, honestly. It's not a streak yet. We still have to win one more. I think guys are realizing we can win again, which is good. We have to keep trying to play good baseball." -- Right-hander Tom Koehler on the mood after winning two in a row
The Marlins get Thursday off -- their first since May 14 -- before a weekend series with the Mets in New York.