St. Louis (66-56) at Miami (63-57)

Heavy Thunderstorm Currently: Miami Gardens, FL
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed Aug 13, 2008
  • TV: FSMW, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez started the second half slowly, putting a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup to come through so the club could hang around in the NL East race.

With the Marlins struggling at the plate lately, Ramirez appears to have reassumed his role as their offensive sparkplug.

After hitting a game-winning three-run home run in Florida’s last game, Ramirez looks to continue his resurgence as the Marlins continue a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night at Dolphin Stadium.

Ramirez batted .205 (18-for-88) with 21 strikeouts in his first 23 games after making the first All-Star appearance of his career. He had only two home runs and six RBIs in that stretch.

The Marlins (63-57) managed to stay competitive in the NL East race despite their leader’s struggles, but their typically prolific offense hasn’t been delivering lately either. They’re near the bottom of the league with a .245 batting average and 40 runs scored in August, while leading the majors with 100 strikeouts this month.

Florida’s offense, however, may have gained some momentum with Ramirez’s success in the first two games of this series. He went 3-for-3 in the series-opening 4-2 loss Monday, then hit a three-run home run in the second inning that gave the Marlins a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.

“It’s a long season,” Ramirez, batting .382 (21-for-55) with two homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs scored in 14 career games against the Cardinals, told the Marlins’ official Web site. “You’re going to be up and down. You just have to stay humble and try to help the team in any way you can.”

Ramirez’s big night at the plate Tuesday helped Florida pull within 1 1/2 games of division-leading Philadelphia. The New York Mets also have a half-game edge over the Marlins.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (66-56) have lost four of six to fall seven games behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and four behind Milwaukee, which leads the wild-card race. St. Louis scored three runs in the first inning Tuesday, but didn’t advance a runner past second the rest of the way.

“We came out looking so good,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “(Starter Kyle Lohse) made one mistake and our offense got shut down.”

St. Louis hopes to get back on track with Braden Looper (10-9, 4.20 ERA) taking the mound Wednesday. The right-hander has posted a 2.42 ERA over his last four starts, but St. Louis has lost three of those games. Looper held the Chicago Cubs to two runs in seven innings of the Cardinals’ 3-2, 11-inning defeat Friday.

Looper is 3-2 with a 5.53 ERA in 18 career games against the Marlins, including 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against them—both Cardinals’ wins.

He’ll match up against Florida’s Ricky Nolasco (11-7, 3.92), who has delivered three straight quality starts, going 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 20 2-3 innings in that stretch. The right-hander gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-0 loss to the New York Mets on Friday.

Nolasco is 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA in two games—one start—against the Cardinals.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Looper ChC vs. R. Nolasco Min
12-14 Record 15-8
4.16 ERA 3.52
108 K 186
45 BB 42
1.31 WHIP 1.10

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Aug 13