The Florida Marlins’ inconsistent play in August has been costing them valuable ground in the NL East, as they’ve gone from a surprise contender to a team that can’t string together wins.
When they’ve faced the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, winning hasn’t been a problem.
Coming off a late-inning, come-from-behind victory in the opener, the Marlins will look to beat the Diamondbacks for the seventh time in eight tries when they continue their three-game series Saturday at Chase Field.
Florida (66-63) was just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the East at the beginning of the month, but August has been a major struggle for the Marlins. They’re 8-12 so far this month, and they’ve yet to win consecutive games.
They’ll get that chance on Saturday, however, after an impressive win Friday against the Diamondbacks (67-61). Randy Johnson struck out 13 Marlins over seven innings and Arizona was clinging to a 4-3 lead, but Florida got a sacrifice fly and a Cody Ross homer in the eighth to lift it to a 5-4 victory.
“One of the better games we’ve played in the past three or four weeks,” said Ross, who’s hitting .444 (8-for-18) with three homers against the Diamondbacks. “We’ve been struggling, everybody knows it, but we’re pulling together.”
The win allowed the Marlins to stay within 6 1/2 games of the first-place New York Mets, who won their fourth straight and 10th of 11 on Friday.
Florida has lost four consecutive series, but can end that streak on Saturday with rookie Chris Volstad (4-2, 3.02 ERA) on the mound. The 21-year-old right-hander has been the Marlins’ best starter since he stepped into the rotation in early July, and he’s 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in his last three starts.
Perhaps most impressively, he’s allowed only one home run in 44 2-3 innings.
Volstad took a shutout into the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, as Florida led 2-0. But he gave up a pair in the seventh, and the Cubs then scored six more, leaving Volstad without a decision and the Marlins with a 9-2 loss.
“That happens,” Volstad told the team’s official Web site. “It’s going to happen to everybody at some point.”
The Marlins won Friday without All-Star Hanley Ramirez in the lineup for the second consecutive day. Ramirez, who bruised his right thumb after being struck in the hand while trying to steal on Wednesday, had trouble gripping the bat Friday during batting practice, though he later pinch ran.
He’s listed as day-to-day.
Arizona has won six of eight, scoring 52 runs, but when it’s faced the Marlins, the offense has been quiet. The Diamondbacks have put up 17 runs in seven games versus Florida, and they’re hitting .222.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers losing on Friday, Arizona maintained a two-game cushion atop the NL West. The Diamondbacks will try to bounce back from their loss in the opener by handing the ball to former Marlin Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 3.02).
The 23-year-old was traded to the Diamondbacks for reliever Jorge Julio before last season, and started 10 games, including some key contests on Arizona’s way to the division title. He went 2-4 with a 4.94 ERA in 2007, but he’s looked better this year.
He delivered his best start of the season Saturday at Houston, giving up two runs on four hits over seven innings in an 11-5 win.
Opponents are hitting just .195 against Petit.
“Even last year, he gave us some big wins at a time when we needed it,” manager Bob Melvin told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site. “He prepares as well as anybody we have. Whatever role you give him, he goes out there and is ready to handle it.”