California-born right-hander Alex Sanabia makes the first start in what he hopes will be an extended stay in the majors this season when the Miami Marlins visit Citi Field for the first of three weekend games with the New York Mets.
Just 24 years old, Sanabia reached the big leagues two years ago and was 5-3 in 15 appearances - 12 starts - with a 3.73 earned run average across 72 1/3 innings.
He was hit by injuries and spent the bulk of his season - 18 starts - in the minors in 2012 while going 6-7 with a 4.08 ERA. In three outings with Miami, he posted a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings while walking three and striking out eight.
Sanabia has made three of his 18 appearances in the majors against the Mets, winning two of three decisions while allowing 13 hits and six earned runs - with five strikeouts and a walk - in 13 1/3 innings.
Replying for the Mets is second-year righty Jeremy Hefner, who's beginning the season in the starting rotation thanks to the shoulder injury suffered by Johan Santana, who'll miss all of 2013.
Hefner made 13 starts in 26 overall appearances as a rookie in 2012 and was 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 93 2/3 innings of work.
He allowed a .287 opposition batting average and was touched for 55 runs while walking 62 batters.
Hefner made three appearances against the Mets from Aug. 8 through the end of last season, pitching an inning of scoreless relief before allowing two runs on six hits in the second outing and two runs on five hits in the third.
On Thursday in Washington, Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer and scored twice as the Nationals beat the Marlins, 6-1, to complete a three-game sweep.
Justin Ruggiano hit a homer for the Marlins, who were outscored by an 11-1 margin in the series. Wade LeBlanc (0-1) got the start and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits over five innings.
Miami's lone run of the series came in the second. Ruggiano led off the frame with a blast to right, cutting the gap to 2-1.
"That's what happens with young teams; you almost have to play perfect out there," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "If we give them extra outs or extra opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. They were able to do that today."
In New York, Eric Stults combined with five San Diego relievers on a five- hitter as the Padres finally cooled off the Mets' hot bats with a 2-1 victory.
The Mets had pasted San Diego pitching for 19 runs in winning the first two tests of this season-opening series, but managed just three hits off Stults during a five-inning stint in which the left-hander racked up seven of the Padres' 14 strikeouts.
John Buck went 2-for-4 and Justin Turner accounted for the Mets' three other hits, while Dillon Gee (0-1) yielded just one run and three hits over 6 1/3 innings in a hard-luck loss.
"He pitched very well, kept us in the ball game," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Gee. "I hope he puts the health issues behind him, because his stuff's good enough and he showed today than when he makes pitches he's gonna get easy outs."
The Mets won 12 of 18 games with the Marlins last season - including seven of nine in New York.