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Marlins-Brewers Preview

AP - Sports

The Miami Marlins were supposed to challenge for the NL East title this season, but they're well back of the division lead with half the season gone.

Perhaps the addition of first baseman Carlos Lee can provide a second-half boost.

With Lee expected to make his Marlins debut Thursday, Miami will try to salvage a split of this four-game series with the host Milwaukee Brewers.

The offseason spending spree to acquire shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell and Thursday's scheduled starter Mark Buehrle (7-8, 3.48 ERA) looked great on paper as the Marlins prepared to open their new stadium, but the product on the field has been far from spectacular.

The Marlins (39-42) rallied from four down in the seventh inning and snapped a 10-game losing streak to Milwaukee (38-43) on Wednesday with a 7-6, 10-inning victory, yet they trail East-leading Washington by nine games.

"Every time I say (a win can get us on track), we lose three in a row,'' said manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team has dropped 19 of 27.

Gaby Sanchez's ninth-inning, game-tying solo homer off Brewers closer John Axford helped the Marlins end a six-game skid in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The celebration didn't last long, as the struggling first baseman was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans following the game to make room for Lee, who was acquired from Houston for minor leaguers Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen.

Lee, a former Brewer, is batting .287 with five homers and 29 RBIs.

"It's a huge move, I think, the front office, showing people how much we want to win,'' Guillen said.

The Marlins conclude this series with Buehrle trying to win a season high-tying third consecutive start. The left-hander has a 1.29 ERA in his last two outings after opening June with four consecutive losses.

Buehrle faced the Brewers just twice during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, but both were memorable performances. He hit his only career home run in Milwaukee on June 14, 2009, after making his major league debut against the Brewers in relief July 16, 2000.

Milwaukee will counter with Michael Fiers (3-2, 2.29) after its season-best four-game home winning streak ended Wednesday.

The rookie right-hander has not surrendered a run in his last 18 1-3 innings after striking out 10 over six innings of two-hit ball in Saturday's 10-2 victory over Arizona.

"He's a hard guy to figure out for hitters," manager Ron Roenicke said. "The ball is all over the place. He's been great for us."

Fiers, a native of Hollywood, Fla., will face the Marlins for the first time. The Brewers could use a lengthy outing with the bullpen blowing two saves, walking six and getting tagged for five homers in 10 innings this series.

Miami's relievers have also struggled, walking four and surrendering six runs in 11 2-3 innings.

Anyone pitching to Marlins outfielder Justin Ruggiano should be careful. He's batting .520 (13 for 25) during a seven-game hitting streak and has gone deep in all three contests at Miller Park.

Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki, who is batting .395 (17 for 43) during a team-best 11-game hitting streak, could shift over to right field Thursday with Carlos Gomez back in center after getting Wednesday off.

Gomez is 8 for 21 with two homers, a triple and two doubles off Buehrle.

Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is expected to miss a third consecutive game with a sore right knee.

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