MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—All of a sudden, the Florida Marlins look like playoff contenders.
The Marlins look to match a franchise-record ninth win in a row when they open a three-game series with the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday at Busch Stadium.
The Marlins (64-66) beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 on Monday for their eighth win in a row. That surge has moved Florida within two games of Cincinnati for the NL wild card.
After starting the season with an 11-31 record, the Marlins also can move within a game of .500 for the first time since they were 1-2 on April 5. Florida won nine straight from June 10-20 and in 1996 and 2004.
“Right now we’re having fun, and we’re just going to keep rolling with it as long as it will go,” said rookie second baseman Dan Uggla, who hit his 20th homer. “This is the time you need to make a run at it.”
After Josh Johnson win his team-leading 12th game, fellow rookie Scott Olsen (10-7, 4.42 ERA) will start the series opener for the Marlins. Olsen ended a three-start losing streak in his last outing when he gave up three runs in six innings of Wednesday’s 9-7 win over Washington.
With that victory, the Marlins the first team since 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers and just the third since 1900 to have three rookies with at least 10 wins. Ricky Nolasco, scheduled to start Wednesday, has 11 wins.
“If you’d have asked before the season if I thought they’d be able to do it, I’d have said, of course,” Uggla said. “I knew what kind of talent they have. They’ve been the best pitchers in their organizations. I faced all three of them last year all the time and it wasn’t any fun.”
Olsen made his only career start against the Cardinals on May 7, allowing seven runs in just 3 2-3 innings of a 9-1 loss.
Bennett also singled home the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning after homering earlier in a 2-1 victory on Saturday.
“What a weekend he’s had,” manager Tony La Russa said of Bennett. “We did a lot of little things really well, and some big things.”
Bennett, who is rarely used by La Russa, has seen more playing time with Yadier Molina out with a strained right elbow. Bennett has a hit in 12 of his last 17 at-bats and all four of his homers have come since Aug. 18. Molina may return for this contest.
St. Louis starts play 3 1/2 games ahead of Cincinnati in the Central and will look for a better effort from Mark Mulder (6-6, 6.77 ERA). After missing more than two months with a strained left shoulder, the left-hander was pounded for nine runs and nine hits in three innings of a 10-8 loss to the Mets on Wednesday.
Mulder also gave up nine runs in 2 1-3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on June 20 in a 20-6 loss.
“It wasn’t the outcome I wanted,” Mulder said. “But my arm felt good. My shoulder felt good.”
Mulder is 1-1 with a 10.24 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins. He gave up three runs in six innings of a 7-6 win over them on May 6.