Marlins shoot for season sweep of Bucs

The Florida Marlins have been simply dominant against Pittsburgh and will try to finish off a season series sweep of the Pirates this afternoon at PNC Park.

Never before have the Marlins swept the season series from the Bucs, who have dropped 11 of its last 12 games played against Florida, including an 0-5 record this season.

Florida right-hander Javier Vazquez tries for a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The righty has thrown seven innings in each of his last two appearances, giving up a total of one run in that span.

Vazquez is 6-3 with a 4.33 ERA in 15 starts against the Pirates and has won his last three decisions against the Bucs. The problem for the veteran has been pitching at PNC Park, where he's allowed the Pirates to hit .347 against him with five home runs. Vazquez is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in four starts at PNC Park.

Coming off a victory on Labor Day against the Astros, James McDonald gets the start this afternoon for the Pirates. The right-hander gave up three hits and a run over 7 1/3 frames in his most recent start, but the Pirates have dropped six of the last eight games he's started. On the positive side, McDonald is 5-1 at home this season, winning each of his last four decisions at PNC Park. His lone defeat in the Steel City came June 5 vs. Philadelphia.

McDonald is 1-2 with an 8.44 ERA in three career games (2 starts) vs. the Marlins.

There will be a pregame ceremony to remember the tragedies of September 11. Members of the City of Pittsburgh Police and Fire hold a large American flag in the outfield and the honorary first pitch will be tossed by Mt. Lebanon resident Marine Corporal Ben Kiernan, who was recently injured in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Anibal Sanchez threw a one-hit shutout and tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts, leading the Marlins to a 3-0 win last night.

Sanchez (8-7) gave up a one-out double to Neil Walker in the second inning and also walked three, but rarely found trouble for only his second win in 16 starts since mid-June.

He retired the final 16 batters he faced after walking Ryan Ludwick with one out in the fourth. Ludwick was retired on a double play, meaning Sanchez faced the minimum in each of his last six innings.

"If he could stay like he pitched tonight he could be an 18-game winner," said Marlins manager Jack McKeon. "But he gets carried away once in a while with that hanging breaking ball ... and stuff like that."

John Buck hit a two-run double and Donnie Murphy had a sacrifice fly during a three-run third inning for the Marlins, who have won both games of this three- game series so far and five of their last seven.

Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke (0-1) took the loss in his major league debut after giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in five innings. He struck out one.

"His stuff looked very good, very crisp, very sharp," Walker said of Locke. "I was impressed with his first outing. I'm sure he's looking forward to the next time he gets out there."

The Pirates have lost nine of their last 13.

Jack McKeon needs just three more wins to become the all-time winningest manager in Marlins history. Currently at 274 wins, McKeon trails only Fredi Gonzalez (276).