It's been so far, so good for the Miami Marlins on their nine-game road trip and they will shoot for a seventh straight win tonight against the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Miami has recorded three-game sweeps of both San Francisco and San Diego to start its trek and moved back to the .500 mark with Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Padres from Petco Park. Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco pushed his 2012 record to 4-0 with seven strong innings, allowing two runs and five hits with three strikeouts.
Nolasco posted his 68th career win and tied Dontrelle Willis for the most in franchise history.
"It means a lot," Nolasco said. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity the team has given me to be here for this long. It means a lot knowing that I'm here helping this team and this organization win as many games as possible."
Randy Choate, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica went the final two innings with Mujica recording his second save in the process. Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Giancarlo Stanton and Gaby Sanchez all drove in a run, while Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio each had two hits and a run scored.
The Marlins have scored at least three runs in eight of their last nine games, and hope Carlos Zambrano can earn his first win with his new ballclub tonight. Zambrano is 0-2 with a 2.53 earned run average in five starts and had his best outing of the season in last Wednesday's 3-2 win at San Francisco. Zambrano fired seven scoreless innings for the no-decision and struck out five.
Zambrano, a righty, has permitted one run or less on three occasions this season and faced the Astros in a 5-4 loss on April 14. The former Cubs hurler gave up one run in six innings, but walked a season-high six batters. Since he played in the NL Central for so long, Zambrano is 16-8 with a 2.69 ERA in 35 career games (33 starts) against Houston.
Despite Sunday's 8-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the finale of a three- game set, the Astros enter tonight's game on somewhat of a roll.
Houston was aiming for its second straight sweep after taking all three meetings with the New York Mets, but came up short to the Cardinals. J.A. Happ got the nod for the 'Stros and was banged around for six runs -- five earned -- and six hits, including two homers, in five innings to suffer the loss. He walked four and fanned six batters.
"A couple of the walks definitely hurt, and they had some good swings," Happ said. "[Tyler] Greene put a good swing on that ball. It was kind of up and away, but it was probably into his swing path, too. It kind of wasn't a good pitch, and I got beat on a couple of big hits."
Jose Altuve and Carlos Lee both had two hits in defeat. Lee scored his team's only run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.
Wandy Rodriguez will take the mound for Houston tonight and he is aiming to extend his personal three-game winning streak. Rodriguez made it three wins in a row with last Wednesday's 8-1 win over the Mets, as he delivered seven innings of one-run ball and struck out five. He has allowed a total of four earned runs over his previous four starts and is 3-2 with a sizzling 1.64 ERA in six outings.
Rodriguez, who started the season 0-2 in three starts, is 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 career appearances, eight of which have been starts, against the Marlins.
Houston is 5-1 on a nine-game homestand and has scored four runs or more in six of the past seven games. It dropped two of three games in Miami from April 13-15, including two contests in 11 innings. The Marlins are 8-2 in the last 10 matchups between the teams.