Miami (18-22) at Pittsburgh (17-22)

Fair Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu May 17, 2007
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The Florida Marlins have bounced back from their recent offensive slump, and Hanley Ramirez is leading the way from an unfamiliar position—the third spot in the batting order.

The Marlins and Ramirez go for their third straight win as they close out a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Thursday.

Florida (18-22) had been outscored 26-7 in losing the first four games of a 10-game road trip, including a 7-0 defeat in the series opener on Monday. The Marlins, though, have won back-to-back games as Ramirez—the team’s leadoff hitter for most of the season—has gone 4-for-8 with four runs scored in the No. 3 spot.

The shortstop was 3-for-4 on Tuesday, and scored the tying run in the eighth inning of Florida’s 4-3 victory on Wednesday, putting the Marlins in position for their first three-game win streak since April 21-23.

“Hanley can drive the ball and hit extra-base hits and drive in more runs (there),” left fielder Josh Willingham said. “Maybe he can help us out more out of the 3-hole, instead of always trying to be the tablesetter. It gives us more options in the middle of the lineup.”

In 10 career games against Pittsburgh, Ramirez is 16-for-38 (.421) with nine runs and six stolen bases.

The Pirates fell to 2-4 on their current 10-game homestand and continued their season-long struggles at PNC Park. Pittsburgh is just 7-12 at home and has lost eight of its last 11 overall.

Adam LaRoche’s struggles have been part of Pittsburgh’s season-long problems at the plate, but the first baseman delivered his second three-hit game of the month on Wednesday, and is 5-for-8 in the series. LaRoche is batting .318 (14-for-44) in May after hitting just .133 in April, raising his average to a season-high .197.

“I was getting pitches to hit, and it felt good not always having an 0-2 or 1-2 count,” LaRoche said. “I’m having a lot better at-bats. I’m getting more comfortable, more confident. I’ve been waiting long enough.”

While Pirates manager Jim Tracy was able to wait out LaRoche’s struggles, his patience with starting pitcher Tony Armas (0-3, 8.76) is nearing an end. Tracy stressed the importance of this outing to Armas, whose spot at the back of the rotation is in jeopardy.

“We had a little bit of a chat and he’s aware that we need consistency from our starting rotation,” Tracy told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I think it’s important for Armas to take this next start. He is very much aware of the fact that he cannot go out there and continue to pitch the way that he’s pitching and expect to stay in the rotation.

Armas has pitched more than five innings only once in six starts and was tagged for five runs in two innings of Pittsburgh’s 9-2 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday.

“I don’t understand it because my arm feels fine,” said Armas, who is 3-12 lifetime versus the Marlins. “It just seems like whatever I’m throwing there is getting hit and I don’t know the reason why.”

Armas is 0-4 with an 8.57 ERA in his last five starts against the Marlins since a win on July 23, 2004.

Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 6.06) gets the start for the Marlins, hoping to continue his success on the road, where he is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in two starts. The right-hander held Washington to one run and three hits in four innings in Florida’s 7-3 loss on Saturday, but did not return after a lengthy rain delay.

Nolasco has yet to allow a run to the Pirates in two overall appearances. He limited them to four hits in 7 1-3 innings to earn the win in Florida’s 5-0 victory on July 22.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Nolasco Min vs. T. Armas Atl
1-2 Record 4-5
5.48 ERA 6.03
11 K 73
9 BB 38
1.64 WHIP 1.54

Scoreboard

Thursday, May 17