What a difference a year makes. Sort of.
The recent performances of the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs haven't been reminiscent of their finishes as the two worst teams in the National League in 2013. The recently red-hot clubs get together on Friday afternoon to open a three-game weekend series at Wrigley Field.
Miami enters after having won four straight games against Tampa Bay that sent the Rays to 10 consecutive losses. The Marlins lost 100 games last season, but these days are tied for the lead in the NL East with Atlanta.
The Cubs, meanwhile, are coming off a three-game sweep of their own against the New York Mets, their first series sweep since last July.
They've also won six of seven games at home
"I know we won three games in a row, whether it's a sweep or not," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "It's just nice to win. Especially in a series where we played good baseball."
The Cubs can prolong the momentum with right-hander Jason Hammel, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason and has paid back with six wins and a .187 opposition batting average.
"He's a veteran," manager Rick Renteria said. "He commands his emotions and is meticulous in his preparations and that's how he's able to attack hitters the way he wants to."
He tossed seven innings of scoreless, four-hit ball in an 8-0 win at Milwaukee on Saturday.
In four career starts against the Marlins -- the last of which came three years ago -- he's 1-3 with a 6.14 earned run average.
Miami sends out its own right-hander, Nathan Eovaldi, who's won two decisions and compiled a 2.21 ERA in his last three starts. He got a no-decision after allowing two runs in eight innings on Sunday against Atlanta.
"I feel like this is the best I've located my fastball all season," Eovaldi said. "I felt like my slider was pretty consistent as well."
He's never met the Cubs and is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five road games.
On Thursday in Tampa, Marcell Ozuna collected three hits, including a two-run homer, with four RBI and three runs scored, and the Marlins completed a four- game home-and-home Citrus Series sweep of the Rays with an 11-6 decision at Tropicana Field.
Casey McGehee finished 4-for-5 and four runs scored. J.T. Realmuto had two hits and three RBI in his major league debut and Giancarlo Stanton blasted a two-run home run for the Marlins.
Jacob Turner (2-3) yielded five runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings to earn just his second win in his last 20 starts.
In Chicago, Rizzo's tie-breaking solo homer in the bottom of the seventh inning propelled the Cubs to a 7-4 triumph over the Mets.
Rizzo finished 2-for-4 and Junior Lake had a two-run triple.
Starting pitcher Travis Wood drove in three runs, two of which came on a homer in the second inning. Wood walked five and hit a batter in five-plus innings on the mound, but held the Mets to two runs while not factoring in the final outcome. Justin Grimm (2-2) received the win despite allowing a game-tying two-run homer to Andrew Brown in the top of the seventh.