Many were surprised when Rodriguez signed with Florida in the offseason, seemingly going to a team with little chance to make the postseason.
The Marlins had been under .500 for much of the year, with Rodriguez getting off to an unspectacular start and watching his average dip to a season-low .239 in late May. The former MVP has woken up in recent weeks, and so has his team.
Rodriguez is batting .439 (25-for-57) with five home runs and 22 RBIs over his last 14 games. He had two hits, including his 13th homer, and drove in two runs Tuesday as Florida evened this series with a 4-3 victory.
The veteran catcher’s recent prowess at the plate and usual defensive excellence behind it have helped the Marlins win 13 of 18, pulling within striking distance of the NL wild card. Florida is a season-best three games above .500.
It was the 10th loss in 14 games for Chicago, which is hoping to avoid losing its sixth straight series.
The Cubs suffered their fifth loss in seven home games Tuesday despite a rain delay that limited Marlins phenom Dontrelle Willis to 5 2-3 innings, during which he held Chicago to four hits and no runs.
All the hype surrounding Willis is somewhat like what was happening five years ago to Chicago’s Kerry Wood, who will take the mound on Wednesday.
Wood, who in 1998 was the NL rookie of the year and tied a major league record with 20 strikeouts in one game, is looking to bounce back from his worst outing of the season. Wood yielded three homers and walked six as he gave up seven runs in three-plus innings of Friday’s 11-8 loss to St. Louis.
STANDINGS (through July 7): Marlins - 4th place, 11 1/2 GB, NL East. Cubs - 3rd place (tied), 1 GB, NL Central.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.45 ERA). The big right-hander threw 6 2-3 scoreless innings and struck out a season-high seven against Philadelphia on Friday, but did not get a decision in Florida’s 2-1 win. Pavano had been coming off the worst outing of his professional career, allowing six consecutive hits and failing to get an out in a 25-8 loss to Boston. He is 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Wood (8-6, 3.36 ERA). Before Friday’s loss, Wood had won his previous three starts, yielding four runs over 24 innings. With 144 strikeouts, the right-hander trails teammate Mark Prior by one for the major league lead. Wood is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three career starts against Florida.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .320 avg.; Mike Lowell, 26 HRs, 73 RBIs and 60 runs; Juan Pierre, 41 SBs. Cubs - Corey Patterson, .298 avg., 49 runs and 16 SBs; Sosa and Moises Alou, 14 HRs; Alou, 56 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - 3B Lowell is hitless in his last 19 at-bats. … Excluding a series against Boston in late June when they gave up 45 runs in three games, Marlins pitchers have allowed 36 runs in their last 15 games. … 2B Castillo is batting .448 (13-for-29) in his last eight games. Cubs - RHP Wood has hit two homers in 34 at-bats this season. That’s a better home-run ratio than any Cubs’ hitter. … 1B Eric Karros has 13 hits in his last 26 at-bats. … INF Jose Hernandez has struck out seven times in the last four games, raising his major league-leading total to 111.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 21-25 on the road; Cubs - 22-21 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - RHP Kevin Olsen (concussion), 15-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL. Cubs - OF Patterson (knee), 15-Day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.