The young and inexpensive Florida Marlins have gotten off to a quick start thanks to one of the hottest offenses in baseball. Even more surprisingly, they’ve gotten there after trading away their top run producer in the offseason.
The Marlins look to continue their offensive surge and record their fifth straight win as they continue their three-game series against the struggling Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.
Former Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera totaled at least 26 home runs and 112 RBIs in each of his last four seasons with the team, and led Florida with 34 homers and 119 RBIs in 2007. Though the Marlins traded Cabrera to Detroit in the offseason to save money and stockpile prospects, they haven’t missed a beat without him.
Florida (7-3) is averaging 5.5 runs and batting .274 as a team, ranking among the NL leaders in both categories despite having the lowest payroll in the majors. The team’s offense has been especially impressive on its first road trip, during which it has outscored opponents 34-20 to open 4-0 away from home for the first time in the franchise’s 16-year history.
Outfielder Jeremy Hermida hit two of Florida’s team-record six home runs as the Marlins beat the Astros 10-6 on Friday night.
“With losing Miggy just the whole lineup had to step up,” said Hermida, whose multihomer game was the first of his career. “You can go through the lineup and see a lot of guys have done that so far. We have different guys contribute every night and that’s what we need.”
The Astros (3-8) haven’t been so lucky. Florida’s power surge on Friday came against Houston ace Roy Oswalt, who’s 0-3 for the first time in his career. Oswalt’s struggles have corresponded with Houston’s worst start since it was 1-10 through 11 games in 1983.
The Astros have also had some key players struggle at the plate. Outfielder Hunter Pence, who hit .322 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs in 108 games as a rookie last season, is batting just .196 with no homers, one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his first 11 games, prompting a move down in the batting order.
“Wherever they put me is where I’m going to try to do the best I can to help us win. You know, the bottom line is I haven’t gotten the job done up there,” Pence told the Astros’ official Web site. “I just want to get my bat back rolling.”
Pence will try to get back on track against Florida’s Andrew Miller (0-1, 12.91 ERA), one of the centerpieces of the trade that sent Cabrera to Detroit. The left-hander is still looking for his first victory with the Marlins after getting tagged for five runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of his debut and failing to factor in Florida’s 10-7 victory over Washington on Monday. He gave up six runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings in that game.
Miller is making his first career appearance against Houston.
He’ll match up against Houston’s Brandon Backe (0-1, 3.27), who has fared well after missing most of last season following elbow ligament replacement surgery. The right-hander, who was limited to 13 total starts over the last two seasons because of elbow trouble, has held opponents to four turns and 11 hits in 11 innings in his first two starts. Dating to last season, he’s 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in his last five outings.
Backe is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in five career games - two starts - against the Marlins, but hasn’t faced them since Sept. 12, 2005.