The Marlins continue a stretch of 13 straight games against teams with winning records when they host the Cardinals in the opener of a four-game series on Monday.
The NL has won just two of the last six World Series, but it was Florida that beat the New York Yankees in 2003 and St. Louis that defeated heavily favored Detroit in 2006.
After losing series to fellow contenders over the weekend, however, both clubs find themselves with ground to make up in a tight race for the NL’s four postseason berths.
The Marlins (62-56) salvaged the final game of a six-game road trip with an 8-2 win over the New York Mets on Sunday, but they still dropped two of three at Shea Stadium, sinking a half-game behind the second-place Mets and 2 1/2 behind NL East-leading Philadelphia.
“I think today was one of those must-win games, and it was nice to pull this one out,” Florida first baseman Mike Jacobs told his team’s official Web site. “… It’s probably going to go down to the end. I don’t see us giving in. I don’t see those two teams giving in.”
After scoring a total of three runs in their previous three games, the Marlins have scored 14 in their last two contests. Jacobs has gone 5-for-7 with three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs over that span.
Florida had begun its trip by taking two of three at Philadelphia last week, and now begins a seven-game homestand against another pair of contenders. The NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs visit South Florida this weekend.
The Cardinals (65-55) dropped two of three at Chicago over the weekend, including a 6-2 loss on Sunday night. While they now trail the Cubs by seven games in the Central, their deficit in the wild card race is three games behind Milwaukee.
St. Louis has lost three of four overall, scoring two or fewer runs in each of the losses. Even more painful during Sunday’s defeat was the loss of starter Chris Carpenter, who left in the sixth inning with a triceps strain.
“We’re looking for a huge lift from him and so far we’ve gotten it,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “This is definitely not good news to see him leave the game.”
The former NL Cy Young award winner was making only his third appearance of the season after elbow surgery. He’s part of a slew of injured St. Louis starters this season, as Adam Wainwright, Mark Mulder and Joel Pineiro have also spent significant time on the disabled list.
Pineiro (4-5, 5.04 ERA) has been healthy lately, but has struggled. The right-hander beat the Los Angeles Dodgers after allowing four runs in seven innings of a 9-6 win on Wednesday, but he has a 6.61 ERA in his last eight starts, allowing at least 10 hits six times over that span.
Florida will send Anibal Sanchez to the mound for his third start after shoulder surgery. Sanchez (1-1, 4.22) hasn’t gotten out of the sixth inning in his first two outings, giving up 11 hits and walking five in 10 2-3 innings.
Neither Sanchez nor Pineiro have faced their opponent for Monday’s game, and the teams haven’t met this season, but the Cardinals have a strong track record in Miami. They are 11-4 at Dolphin Stadium since the beginning of the 2003 season, winning all five of their series there over that span.