The Miami Marlins hope the beginning of July goes as smoothly as the end of June when they shoot for a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies this afternoon in south Florida.
Miami ended June with three straight wins and four in the past six games, including Saturday's 3-2 victory at Marlins Park. Giancarlo Stanton got the ball rolling with a first-inning home run -- his 18th of the season and 11th at home -- and finished with two RBI to back starting pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle held the Phillies to two runs in seven innings, allowed seven hits and struck out seven batters. He issued just one walk for a Marlins team that compiled an 8-18 record in June and sits 7 1/2 games off the NL East lead. In May, Miami set a franchise record for most wins in any month with a 21-8 mark.
"I hope this is not a tease," Miami manager Ozzie Guillen said of his team's recent turn-around. "I hope this is for real and so far it's been good. That's the type of game we want to play here."
Heath Bell worked around a one-out double in the ninth to record his 16th save of the season. Justin Ruggiano added a sacrifice fly for the Marlins, who have won three in a row for the first time since May 28-30 and are 4-4 on a nine- game homestand. Miami hasn't won four straight since a seven-game run from May 1-7, and will open a four-game set with Milwaukee on Monday. It will then visit St. Louis for three games at the end of the week.
The Marlins learned on Saturday that reliever Edward Mujica will miss some time with a broken pinky toe on his right foot suffered in Friday's 6-2 win against the Phillies. A line drive off the bat of Placido Polanco will keep Mujica out at least a few weeks.
"It was a long conversation about what we were going to do, because he could feel better in four days," Guillen said on the club's website. "But realistically, when you have a broken bone, you never know."
Ricky Nolasco has the honors of trying to pitch Miami to a series sweep Sunday and hasn't won since June 2 at Philadelphia, when he allowed four runs in seven innings of a 5-4 win. He is 0-3 in four starts since and did not record a decision in Monday's 8-7 loss to St. Louis, as he gave up one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. Nolasco is 6-6 in 15 starts with a 4.78 earned run average.
The right-hander, who is 2-4 in eight home assignments, owns a 7-4 mark with a 3.67 ERA over 16 career games (13 starts) against the Phillies.
Philadelphia is mired in a four-game losing streak and saw Cole Hamels fall to the Marlins for the third time this season Saturday afternoon. Hamels was decent through seven innings, allowing three runs and seven hits, and finished with five K's and three walks.
Hunter Pence went 3-for-4 with a solo homer for the Phillies, who have dropped 10 of their last 15 games overall and sit 10 games off the lead in the NL East. The Phillies are a season-worst eight games below .500 and will visit the New York Mets for three games on their current road trip.
"We have to play a lot better. We have to play over .600 baseball the rest of the way. Can we do it? I've seen us hit big streaks. Yeah, it's possible," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
The Phillies made a trade on Saturday and sent designated hitter and fan favorite Jim Thome to Baltimore for two prospects: catcher Gabriel Lino and right-hander Kyle Simon. Thome will most likely serve as the DH for the Orioles since the American League instills that rule.
"This wasn't a trade that had anything to do with a message," Phils GM Ruben Amaro stated in a conference call. "This is a trade that is beneficial for us later on and hopefully beneficial for Jim. If people think this is the start of us selling players off, that's incorrect. We are in a tough spot because we have not played well and are behind. But we're not throwing in any towels."
Joe Blanton has a chance to salvage this series for the Phillies and will look to keep his unbeaten streak intact when he toes the rubber today. Blanton is 3-0 in his last four starts and defeated Pittsburgh on Monday in an 8-3 decision by allowing three runs -- two earned -- in seven innings.
Blanton, a right-hander, struck out eight batters and has fanned six or more in five straight appearances. He is 7-6 with a 4.87 earned run average in 16 games (15 starts) this season and recently lost to Miami on June 3, when he allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings of a 5-1 setback. Blanton has made 11 starts in his career against the Marlins, going 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA.
The Phillies are making their first ever trip to brand-new Marlins Park with this series. Miami leads the season series, 5-3.