Coming off a successful road trip, the Florida Marlins return home trying to reach the .500 mark for the first time in more than a month when they open an interleague series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday night.
Florida (30-31) beat Atlanta 7-4 Wednesday to take three of four from the Braves, and finish 7-4 on its longest road trip this year. The Marlins have not been .500 since May 4 when they were 14-14.
The Marlins now face the Devil Rays, who they outscored 19-9 in a three-game road sweep last month.
“That was last time,” Florida rookie manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Marlins’ official Web site. “This weekend is a different three games and hopefully we can continue to play well like we have these last 10 days or so.”
Aaron Boone went 3-for-8 with two homers and five RBIs against the Devil Rays last month. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs in Wednesday’s win, and is batting .308 (4-for-13) with two home runs and six RBIs in his last four games.
Florida is hopeful Miguel Cabrera will return Friday after sitting out Wednesday’s game with a tight right hamstring. Cabrera is among the NL leaders with a .320 batting average, and he went 5-for-15 with two RBIs against the Devil Rays earlier this season.
The Marlins will send Byung-Hyun Kim (3-2, 4.40 ERA) to the mound in the opener. Kim allowed one run and three hits in six innings, but did not earn a decision in a 5-2 win over Milwaukee on Saturday.
The right-hander, who allowed two earned runs in 5 1-3 innings against Tampa Bay on May 18 for his first win this season as a starter, is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in nine games - two starts - against the Devil Rays.
Tampa Bay (26-32) won 5-3 at Toronto on Thursday to take two of three from the Blue Jays. The Devil Rays are 8-5 since losing five straight from May 18-23 — a skid that started when they were swept by the Marlins.
“It seems like things have been going well for us lately,” Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford said, “I just hope we can keep it up and try to stay in the groove.”
The Devil Rays, who are 10-15 on the road after going a major-league worst 20-61 there in 2006, have not won three straight road games since late September 2005.
On Thursday, Delmon Young had a two-run, tiebreaking single in the ninth inning. Crawford also went 3-for-5 for Tampa Bay.
He was 8-for-16 with a homer, seven RBIs and seven runs in the series, but is 2-for-9 with three strikeouts against the Marlins this year.
J.P. Howell (1-0, 1.13) looks to build off his season debut for the Devil Rays. After being recalled Triple-A Durham on Saturday, Howell allowed one run with five hits, seven strikeouts and no walks in eight innings of a 5-1 win over Kansas City on Sunday.
“The score being what it was, I wanted him to leave with a good feeling,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Howell, who struggled in eight starts with Tampa Bay last year. “I thought it was just a wonderful, first-time-back outing. I didn’t want anything to impact that in a negative way.”
The left-hander has never faced the Marlins, who have won six of the last seven at home from their in-state rival and lead the all-time series 33-19.
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