Amid controversy, Marlins head home to face Astros
Following a losing road trip, the Miami Marlins are set for their first extended homestand in their new ballpark. They do so hoping that their past success in Florida over the Houston Astros will carry over.
Miami goes for its fifth straight victory at home over Houston tonight in the first of three straight games at Marlins Park.
The Marlins opened their new home with a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals back on April 4 before hitting the road for six straight. They won just twice on the swing and are coming off Thursday's 3-1 setback to the Phillies that secured a series loss.
Mark Buehrle made his second National League start and gave up three runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old lefty lost his first NL start last Thursday at Cincinnati.
"He gave us a chance to win," said bench coach Joey Cora, "we just couldn't score for him."
The Marlins ended with just six hits and return home without manager Ozzie Guillen, who was suspended for five games on Tuesday for pro comments he made about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The remarks angered a Miami community that is heavy with Cuban-Americans.
With that possible distraction looming, Ricky Nolasco will make the start for the Marlins as he closes in on the franchise's all-time wins mark.
Nolasco is just three victories away from matching Dontrelle Willis' record of 68 games after a season-opening win at Cincinnati on April 7. The right-hander gave up three runs on six hits over eight innings without a walk, striking out five.
The 29-year-old Nolasco is 5-1 with a 4.47 earned run average in seven career outings versus the Astros, all but one of those starts. He tossed a complete game the last time he faced the club on July 9, giving up a run with eight strikeouts in the home win.
That was part of Miami's four-game sweep over Houston at Sun Life Stadium and the Marlins have won 14 of their past 16 at home against the Astros. They won six of seven meetings overall in 2011.
Houston will look to reverse that trend tonight in its first road game of the season. The Astros have lost two straight, dropping the rubber match of a three-game set with the Braves on Wednesday by a 6-3 margin.
Wandy Rodriguez (0-1) pitched five innings but gave up four runs -- three earned -- on six hits. He struck out five and issued one walk in a losing effort, while J.D. Martinez hit a solo homer and recorded two RBI.
"I threw some bad changeups tonight," said Rodriguez. "I wanted to get them down low, but a bunch of times they sat there in the middle and that's not good."
Martinez has hit in all six Houston games so far this season, posting a .364 average with a pair of homers and six RBI.
Houston is expected to debut shortstop Jed Lowrie in tonight's opener. The Astros acquired Lowrie from Boston this offseason, but the 27-year-old was forced to open the season on the disabled list due to a sprained right thumb.
Lucas Harrell draws the start for the Astros after a scoreless season debut on Saturday. The right-hander got the best of the Rockies with seven scoreless innings of three hits ball, striking out four without a walk in the longest start of his career.
"What an outing," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "He just didn't allow them to get anything going. We couldn't have asked for more."
Harrell, 26, was making just his sixth career start last weekend and faces the Marlins for the first time.