Preview: No rest for weary as Marlins welcome Rockies to town

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

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MIAMI -- The Colorado Rockies' fourth playoff berth -- and first since 2009 -- is within reach.

The Rockies (65-49), who open a three-game series at the Miami Marlins (53-60) on Friday, seem likely to grab one of the two wild-card spots in the National League, along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, also from the loaded NL West division.

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Colorado used Thursday as a travel day. On Wednesday, the Rockies beat the Indians in Cleveland 3-2 on Charlie Blackmon's 12th-inning solo homer.

Blackmon, a second-time All-Star this year at age 31, has 27 homers and leads the majors with 74 RBIs from the leadoff position.

"Charlie has an innate ability to focus in critical situations," Rockies manager Bud Black told the media after Blackmon's heroics. "That was a great swing."

Colorado, though, has to play better on the road if the Rockies are to go far this season. They are 35-21 at home and 30-28 on the road.

Miami, meanwhile, trails the Rockies by 11 1/2 games in the wild-card race. Even worse for the Marlins, they would have to leap over the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates to get into position to challenge Colorado and/or Arizona.

At this point in the season, the most interesting storyline regarding the Marlins centers around right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. He leads the majors with a career-high 39 homers, including a two-run shot Thursday in Miami's 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Stanton was on fire in the just-completed seven-game road trip, slugging six homers and driving in 11 runs. For the season, he is hitting .275 with 24 doubles, 85 RBIs and what would be a career high .983 OPS if he were to maintain that pace through the year.

"Understanding baseball, understanding the grind of it," Stanton told the media earlier this week when asked about the improvements he has made in his game.

Stanton indicated that, in the past, he relied too heavily on his athletic ability. Now he is studying the game more, taking his walks and getting singles in order to avoid slumps.

The power is not new for Stanton, who hit 37 homers in 2012 and 2014. But now, at age 27, Stanton is putting it all together, and is starting to spoil Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who said he has grown accustomed to his slugger's frequent home runs.

"You get (almost) one per day now," Mattingly said, "and then you hope for another."

Stanton is chasing Gary Sheffield's franchise record for homers in a season with 42, a mark set in 1996.

Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna is also taking aim at a franchise record with his team-high 87 RBIs. The Marlins single-season record for RBIs is 121 set by Preston Wilson in 2000.

The Rockies pitcher assigned to stop Stanton, Ozuna and the rest of the Marlins hitters Friday is Jon Gray (4-2, 4.94 ERA).

In two career starts against the Marlins, Gray is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA. However, in his only appearance at Marlins Park, he allowed only two runs in six innings last year.

The Marlins will counter with right-hander Jose Urena (10-5, 3.70 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two career starts against Colorado.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Urena has had a breakout season, going from out of the rotation at the start of this year to staff ace in three months. He keeps getting better, too, as evidenced by allowing two runs in 14 innings over his past two starts.

Urena, who turns 26 next month, entered this season with a 5-14 career record. But he has become the bright spot in a Marlins rotation that has been ravaged by injury and ineffectiveness.

The Marlins have had to use 11 pitchers in their rotation this year. That number will increase this weekend as rookie left-hander Chris O'Grady (right oblique) got hurt Monday and won't be able to start Saturday.

In fact, there is a chance O'Grady won't return this season.

The leading candidate to replace him Saturday is right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne.