Preview: Marlins' Jose Urena seeks fifth straight win

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.


MIAMI -- Chicago Cubs right-hander John Lackey, who turns 39 in October, will be the first to admit he doesn't throw as hard as he did a few years ago.

"But if you can locate, it doesn't matter," Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer told the media Sunday after Lackey beat his team 7-1. "(Lackey's) fastball was really good. If you locate consistently and make guys expand the zone a little bit, that always works."

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Lackey (5-7, 4.98 ERA) will try that plan again Friday when the Cubs (37-35) play the Miami Marlins (32-39) in the second contest of a four-game series at Marlins Park.

The Cubs took the opener 11-1 on Thursday.

"It seemed like it went the same way all night," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of his team's failure to get back into the game.

On Friday, Miami will start young right-hander Jose Urena (5-2, 3.64), who is in his third year in the majors and first as a relative fixture in the rotation.

The 25-year-old went 5-14 combined in his first two years in the majors, sporting ERAs of 5.25 and 6.13.

This year has been different.

After pitching in relief in his first six games this season, Urena got his first start of the season May 7, beating the New York Mets 7-0.

He has won his past four decisions, and the Marlins have prevailed in five of his past six games. He hasn't lost a decision since May 17.

Urena has only faced the Cubs twice, sporting a 1-1 record with a 4.91 ERA. However, he beat the Cubs 6-5 at Wrigley Field on June 7, allowing three runs in five innings.

Lackey, meanwhile, is 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins. Lackey was on the mound June 7 when he got beat by Urena and the Marlins.

One of Lackey's problems this year has been the long ball. He has allowed at least one homer in seven straight starts and 12 of 14 games. He has allowed 20 homers in 81 1/3 innings this year. Last year, he gave up 23 homers in 188 1/3 innings.

Last year, Lackey allowed only 1.1 homers per nine innings. Ths year, he has allowed 2.2 long balls per nine, which would surpass his previous career high of 1.4.

At this rate, Lackey will blow past his previous high of 31 homers allowed in one season.

However, of the 20 home runs he has allowed this season, 11 have traveled less than 400 feet.

Lackey on Friday will have to try to control Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who hit his 20th homer of the season Thursday and is bidding for a spot in next month's All-Star Game at Marlins Park.

Ozuna is especially good at home. He is hitting .385 with 14 homers and 33 RBIs at Marlins Park this season. He also has one homer in 10 career at-bats against Lackey.

As for Urena, the first batter he is likely to face Friday is Anthony Rizzo, who since moving to the leadoff spot is 6-for-8 with a walk and three home runs in his first at-bat of the game.