The two look to continue escaping their prolonged slumps as the Florida Marlins open a three-game series against the Montreal Expos at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“I told (Cabrera) to have fun and not worry about it,” McKeon said. “The same thing with (Gonzalez). Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourselves. Don’t make it any tougher than it is.”
Cabrera singled home the go-ahead run Thursday, and Gonzalez followed with his 16th home run to lead Florida to a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh. With the hit, Cabrera began emerging from a 1-for-35 slump that dropped his average 37 points to .243, and Gonzalez began taking steps out of his 1-for-25 slide.
The Marlins followed up their 1-8 road trip with a 6-1 homestand to remain tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL wild-card lead.
And they are confident they can eliminate their struggles on the road.
“I think this trip is going to be different,” said right-hander Carl Pavano, who didn’t receive a decision Thursday. “We’ve got good momentum going.”
Owned and operated by major league baseball, the Expos begin their final “homestand” in San Juan coming off three straight losses, including Wednesday’s 8-3 setback to the Phillies.
Wil Cordero accounted for the Expos’ offense, ending a 2-for-28 slide with a three-run homer, as Montreal fell 5 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia and Florida in the wild-card race.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 2nd place, 11 1/2 GB, NL East. Expos - 4th place, 17 GB, NL East.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Mark Redman (11-8, 3.47 ERA). Redman ended a three-game losing streak with Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Expos. The left-hander, who had 8.42 ERA during the skid, allowed three runs and six hits over six innings against Montreal, striking out 10 and walking just two. Redman is 2-1 with a 5.29 ERA in three career starts against the Expos.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Livan Hernandez (14-8, 2.93 ERA). Hernandez’s four-game win streak was broken with Saturday’s 4-3 setback to the Marlins. The right-hander, who had a stingy 0.88 ERA over five starts during the run, yielded just three runs and five hits over six innings, striking out eight and walking three. Hernandez, who won the World Series MVP for the Marlins in 1997, is 5-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 10 career starts against his former team.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .322 avg. and 88 runs; Mike Lowell, 32 HRs and 105 RBIs; Juan Pierre, 58 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .318 avg.; Vladimir Guerrero, 23 HRs; Orlando Cabrera, 71 RBIs, 87 runs and 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Marlins, 11-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - OF Juan Encarnacion is hitting .381 with a double, a triple, two homers and seven RBIs in 21 career at-bats against RHP Hernandez. … Florida’s final 22 games will be against the NL East. … OF Jeff Conine went 0-for-4 Thursday and is 1-for-14 (.071) since rejoining Florida on Sunday. Expos - Montreal is 10-6 at Bithorn Stadium. … OF Geurrero was named the NL player of the month for August on Thursday after hitting .349 (37-for-106) with 10 homers and 25 RBIs. … RHP Rocky Biddle, the Expos closer, has picked up only one save since Aug. 19.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 30-38 on the road; Expos - 46-23 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - 3B Lowell (thumb), 15-day DL; LHP Armando Almanza (shoulder), 60-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. Expos - OF Guerrero (knee), day-to-day; C Michael Barrett (hip), 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; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 60-day DL.
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