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Marlins-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

A week ago, the Miami Marlins were considered one of the biggest disappointments in baseball.

Now, they're one of the hottest teams and on the brink of their longest single-season road winning streak in almost eight years.

The Marlins look for a seventh straight win as they arrive for the last stop of their nine-game trip Monday night against Wandy Rodriguez and the Houston Astros.

Miami (14-14) was reeling last Monday with eight losses in nine games, as the club was struggling to live up to its lofty expectations after spending big in free agency and bringing in former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

It's only taken a week for that to begin changing.

The Marlins have won the first six games of this trip after beating San Diego 6-3 on Sunday. Giancarlo Stanton drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run in a four-run eighth inning.

"From where we came from, we are actually catching a lot of breaks," Guillen said.

Miami last won seven in a row as the visitor bridging 2008 and '09, but hasn't put together a streak that long during a single season since Aug. 21-Sept. 10, 2004.

Matching those streaks might not be easy with Rodriguez (3-2, 1.64 ERA) on the hill. Rodriguez is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts against the Marlins at Minute Maid Park since they beat him there Sept. 13, 2005.

Miami missed the left-hander while taking two of three at home April 13-15.

He's allowed four total runs over his last four starts and has won each of his past three. Rodriguez - who won a career-high four straight starts from July 2-21, 2009 - yielded one run and six hits in seven innings of an 8-1 win over New York at Minute Maid on Wednesday.

While the Marlins are putting their disappointing first month behind them, the Astros (13-15) are trying to keep a surprising start going. Their season-high five-game winning streak was halted with Sunday's 8-1 loss to St. Louis, but Houston has shown some major improvement after going 56-106 last season to set a club record for futility.

Even after Sunday, only the Cardinals and Braves have better run differentials in the NL than the Astros (plus-14).

"I think we need to focus on what we need to do (Monday) and keep going from there," manager Brad Mills told the team's official website. "We can't let too many things out of our control get too far ahead of us. These guys have done a good job of doing that, keeping their focus on the now."

Jose Altuve is hitting a team-high .352, and he went 4 for 9 with two doubles and two RBIs in the last two meetings with the Marlins.

Carlos Zambrano (0-2, 2.53) could use some more help from his teammates in order to end his longest win drought to start a season since going seven in 2006 with the Chicago Cubs.

The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last four starts, getting charged with losses in two of them while getting no supporting runs.

He didn't need much help Wednesday, as he tossed seven scoreless innings in San Francisco before closer Heath Bell couldn't hold the lead for a third time in one of Zambrano's starts. The Marlins won 3-2 in 10.

"I feel that I'm a new Carlos Zambrano," he said. "The old Carlos Zambrano would be throwing his chair and screaming at his teammate."

Zambrano is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his last six starts away from home against the Astros, including his Sept. 14, 2008, no-hitter that was moved from Minute Maid to Milwaukee's Miller Park due to Hurricane Ike.

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