The Montreal Expos are peaking at the right time.
The Expos look to continue their playoff surge as they open a four-game series against the slumping Florida Marlins.
Montreal has won five in a row overall and nine straight home games to pull even with the Marlins and Philadelphia in the NL wild card race. Those teams are also tied with St. Louis and Houston, who share the NL Central lead.
The Expos swept their four-game homestand against the Phillies and now embark on a six-game road trip against the Marlins and Phillies before heading to Puerto Rico for six games.
Javier Vazquez extended his scoreless streak to 26 innings and Vladimir Guerrero homered for the third time in four games as Montreal finished a four-game sweep of the Phillies with a 4-0 win on Thursday.
The Expos don’t return to Olympic Stadium to play until Sept. 12.
“Now that we’re playing great baseball and we’re in the race, they can’t see us next homestand because we play in Puerto Rico,” Vazquez said. “We can’t do anything about it.”
The Expos, who are 36-17 in Montreal this season, will play just six of their 27 remaining games at Olympic Stadium.
“We were scheduled for 22 and this is the last of the 22, but it certainly deprives us from playing in front of some of the best fans in baseball, where we get our energy,” said Montreal manager Frank Robinson, whose team is 25-41 on the road.
“Hopefully, we can have a good series down there, but we’ve got some business to take care of before we get to Puerto Rico.”
The Marlins are struggling to stay in the wild card race, having lost three straight and eight of nine. Florida has been shut out in two straight games, including Thursday’s 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Marlins were limited to three runs and 12 hits during three straight losses to the Pirates to finish 1-8 on a three-city road trip to Colorado, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
“We don’t dwell on winning streaks … and we’re not going to dwell on a losing streak,” Florida manager Jack McKeon said. “This is the first time these guys have been in a race and they’re having a tough time right now. But there are better days ahead.”
STANDINGS: Expos - 2nd place (tied), 15 GB, NL East. Marlins - 2nd place (tied), 15 GB, NL East.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: T.J. Tucker (0-1, 5.04 ERA). Tucker has made 39 appearances this season, three of them starts. The 25-year-old righty hasn’t earned a decision since May 15. He’s started two straight games, allowing four earned runs in 8 1-3 innings. Tucker pitched 4 1-3 innings, allowing two runs— one earned—and four hits as Montreal beat San Diego 8-4 on Sunday.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Beckett (6-7, 3.41 ERA). The hard-throwing righty is 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA on the road this season. Beckett is 1-3 with a 3.74 ERA in August. He pitched seven innings, yielding three runs and seven hits while striking out six in a 3-2 loss to San Francisco in his last outing.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Expos - Jose Vidro, .326 avg.; Guerrero, 20 HRs; Orlando Cabrera, 70 RBIs, 87 runs and 21 SBs. Marlins - Luis Castillo, .321 avg. and 85 runs; Mike Lowell, 32 HRs and 105 RBIs; Juan Pierre, 57 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Marlins, 7-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Expos - Montreal purchased LHP Vic Darensbourg’s contract from Triple-A Edmonton on Thursday. LHP Eric Knott was sent outright to Edmonton. … RHP Rocky Biddle leads Montreal with 31 saves. … OF Guerrero has hit 20 or more home runs in five straight seasons. Marlins - OF Lowell is 5-for-9 with three doubles against Tucker. … Florida is the only team in the majors without a grand slam this season. … C Ramon Castro was arrested and jailed on rape and other charges after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her in his hotel room, officials said.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Expos - 25-41 on the road; Marlins - 40-25 at home.
INJURIES: Expos - C Michael Barrett (hip), 15-day DL; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Claudio Vargas (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 60-day DL. Marlins - OF Todd Hollandsworth (back), 15-day DL; LHP Armando Almanza (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Tommy Phelps (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendix), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Kevin Olsen (concussion), 60-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (arm), 60-day DL.