The Florida Marlins enjoyed their best day of the season at the plate in Friday’s series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates, then benefited from one of their finest pitching efforts as the series continued.
Vazquez, who has quietly put together eight consecutive quality starts and has been dominant in his last two, will take the mound trying to lead the Marlins to a sixth win in a row at PNC Park.
Florida (65-79) entered this series fresh off its 11th shutout loss, but proceeded to pound out a season-high 22 hits in Friday’s 13-4 rout.
Three third-inning runs were all the Marlins could muster Saturday, but those were two more than they needed. Anibal Sanchez(notes) pitched a one-hitter - his second of the season - as Florida won its fifth straight game at PNC, 3-0.
The Marlins will now try to complete their first three-game sweep since July 26-28 at Washington, and they should feel pretty good about their chances.
Vazquez (9-11, 4.29 ERA) has delivered a quality start in seven straight outings and 12 of his last 13, and his two latest performances have been particularly strong. The right-hander held the Mets to three hits over seven innings of a 6-0 win Aug. 30 at Citi Field, then limited New York to one run over seven innings Monday in a 9-3 victory.
The active major league strikeout leader with 2,507, Vazquez has hinted he’ll retire after this season. Considering he has a 2.17 ERA in his last eight starts and has fanned 39 over his last 34 innings, he’s certainly going out on top if he does call it quits.
“It’s one of those things, if I do go out, that’s actually how I want to go out, pitching good,” Vazquez told the Marlins’ official website. “I don’t want to go out pitching poorly. I’m still having a good time out there.”
He might have an even better time against the Pirates (66-79). Pittsburgh whiffed 11 times Saturday against Sanchez, increasing its major league-worst total since the All-Star break to 484 - 41 more than any other NL club.
Vazquez hasn’t faced the Pirates since 2009, but went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two meetings that season while striking out 20 in 14 innings.
Pittsburgh counters with James McDonald(notes) (9-7, 3.98), who’s been pretty good in his own right recently. The righty held the Astros to two runs - one earned - over six innings but didn’t get any support in a 2-0 road loss Aug. 31, but limited Houston to one run and three hits over a season-high 7 1-3 innings to win Monday’s rematch 3-1.
“I feel like things are going in the right direction,” McDonald told the Pirates’ official website. “Just getting ahead of guys, I think that’s the big key of this success.”
McDonald has started twice against the Marlins with very different results. He held them to one run over seven innings in a 7-1 home win Aug. 16, 2010, but gave up eight runs over three innings of a 9-5 road loss April 21.