Pittsburgh (34-62) at Miami (42-51)

Fair Currently: Miami Gardens, FL
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 20, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Pittsburgh Pirates are tired of talking about their dismal first half of the season. With they way they’re playing, those questions may soon end.

The Pirates (34-62) try to continue their post-All-Star break success when they open a four-game series against the Florida Marlins (42-51) at Dolphin Stadium on Thursday.

Pittsburgh lost eight straight series before the break, going 5-21 from June 13-July 9 heading into the break. Since play resumed, the Pirates have won four of six to take consecutive series from Washington and Colorado. It’s only the second time this season they’ve recorded back-to-back series wins.

Joe Randa drove in three runs and Ronny Paulino had a two-run double as Pittsburgh beat 6-5 in the series finale on Wednesday. Freddy Sanchez, the National League’s batting leader with a .363 average, was 1-for-4 and has reached base safely in 14 straight games.

Zach Duke went six innings for the win and Mike Gonzalez earned his 15th save, a club record for a left-hander.

“We’re trying to forget about the first half and not look at the record,” said Pirates first baseman Sean Casey, who had two hits and scored twice. “There were 70-some games to go when we started the second half. Let’s go out and play hard in the second half, go out and win ballgames and win series and quit talking about the first half.”

The biggest barometer for Pittsburgh will be whether it can continue its strong play away from home as it begins a seven-game road trip. The Pirates are a league-worst 10-36 on the road and have won just one series there this season.

Ian Snell (8-6, 4.85 ERA) will take the mound for Pittsburgh. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.42 ERA in eight road starts this season and has won four consecutive decisions there.

Snell’s worst outing of the season came against Florida when he lasted just 1 1-3 innings and gave up seven runs in an 8-2 loss on May 14.

Snell allowed a run and three hits over seven innings in his last road start, a 3-2 win on July 7 in Philadelphia. Snell didn’t receive a decision in his last outing, a 7-6 victory over Washington on Saturday, when he threw 114 pitches and gave up six walks—both season-highs.

He will be opposed by Josh Johnson (8-5, 2.48), who is trying to rebound from his first loss in over a month when he makes his first career start against Pittsburgh.

The right-hander allowed four runs and four walks while striking out six over five innings in a 12-0 defeat to Houston on Saturday.

“I was in bad counts and threw way too many pitches,” said Johnson, who had not given up more than three runs in any of his previous 12 starts. “My fastball was missing all over the place.”

The 22-year-old has gone 7-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 13 starts since joining the rotation on May 4.

He will try to duplicate the success of fellow rookie Anibal Sanchez who allowed one hit in seven shutout innings of a 1-0 win over the Nationals on Wednesday. Cody Ross homered and Joe Borowski earned his 19th save in 21 saves as the Marlins took two of three games from Washington.

“That’s as good a game as we’ve pitched all year,” said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, whose team recorded its third shutout of the season.

Florida is trying to get back to .500 at Dolphin Stadium where it is 22-23 this season. The Marlins won two of three against Pittsburgh May 12-14.

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Starting Pitchers

I. Snell LAD vs. J. Johnson SD
14-11 Record 12-7
4.74 ERA 3.10
169 K 133
74 BB 68
1.46 WHIP 1.30