It's not often a starting pitcher can lead his team to two victories in one series, but that's exactly what St. Louis Cardinals rookie Joe Kelly has the chance to achieve.
Kelly will take the ball in Wednesday night's finale looking to help the Cardinals extend their longest winning streak of the season to six and continue their dominance over the sputtering Miami Marlins.
Kelly (1-0, 3.52 ERA) wasn't expected to see the field in Monday's opener in Miami, but with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th inning and the Cardinals up by a run, he was called on to hit for reliever Victor Marte. He delivered a run-scoring single that proved to be the game winning RBI and St. Louis (40-35) hung on for an 8-7 win.
The Cardinals won 5-2 the next night for their fifth straight victory, and will turn to Kelly to complete the sweep.
The 24-year-old right-hander was on the mound when the winning streak began Friday in Kansas City, allowing three runs and nine hits over a season-high six innings in an 11-4 win to pick up his first major league victory in his third career start.
While Kelly is trying to lift the Cardinals to another win over the Marlins, his batterymate has already left his mark on the first two games.
After hitting a two-out, two-run game-tying homer in the ninth inning Monday, Yadier Molina hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat Tuesday to cap St. Louis' five-run first inning. Molina, who has homered in three straight games, leads NL catchers in nearly every offensive category with 12 homers, 44 RBIs and a .317 average.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball, that's it,'' said the three-time All-Star, who is two homers shy of his career best set last year. "Seeing the ball and trying to hit the ball. It's that simple.''
The Cardinals have scored 43 runs during the winning streak, and are trying to win six straight for the first time since reeling off eight in a row from July 11-21, 2010.
The Marlins (34-40) are heading in the opposite direction. They've lost eight of nine and are a major league-worst 3-17 since June 5. Miami, 2-12 in its new ballpark this month, has also lost eight straight to St. Louis with the last seven coming in Florida.
"It's another loss," Ozzie Guillen told the Marlins' official website. "At the end of the day, all that really matters is winning."
While most of Miami's troubles have been confined to this month following a record-setting May, the team has struggled behind Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 3.94) for weeks, losing seven of his last nine starts.
Since shutting down Washington in a 3-1 win on May 29, Sanchez is 0-3 with an 8.06 ERA in his four June starts. Against Toronto on Friday, he was tagged for six runs, seven hits and four walks in a season-worst 3 1-3 innings of a 12-5 loss.
Sanchez was 0-1 with a 4.63 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals last season, with Matt Holliday going 3 for 6 with a pair of homers. Yadier Molina is 3 for 9 with a home run lifetime against the right-hander.
Holliday was 0 for 3 with two walks Tuesday after hitting .556 with two homers, seven doubles and 12 RBIs in his previous nine games.
Giancarlo Stanton had two of Miami's five hits Tuesday, including his 17th homer.