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Pirates-Marlins Preview

AP - Sports

Although the majors' best pitching staff held down baseball's worst offense, the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn't overcome their struggles at the plate against the Miami Marlins.

Now, the Pirates will try to rebound and avoid their third straight loss Saturday night at Marlins Park.

Miami closer Steve Cishek converted his 16th straight save opportunity by retiring pinch-hitter Jose Tabata with two on to lock down Friday's 2-0 series-opening victory.

Pittsburgh (60-41) finished with five hits and struck out 11 times, raising its total to 39 over the last three games.

The Pirates also went hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, dropping their major-league worst average in those situations to .219. They're 9 for 84 (.107) in those key situations over their last nine games.

Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte are a combined 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position during this stretch. McCutchen is also 2 for 16 overall in his last four games, while Marte is 2 for 28 in his last seven.

Jordy Mercer is one of the few Pirates currently performing well, batting .341 during a career-best 11-game hitting streak.

Pittsburgh hopes for a better offensive performance against Miami starter Tom Koehler (2-5, 4.38 ERA).

After spending some time at Triple-A New Orleans, Koehler struck out seven and limited Colorado to one run over seven innings in Monday's 3-1 road win.

"He had great command," said manager Mike Redmond of the right-hander's first big-league start since July 2. "He was pounding his fastball in and out and threw some great breaking balls."

Koehler looks for his first win at Marlins Park, where he's 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in four starts. He'll try to continue an outstanding run by the team's starters, who have a 2.44 ERA since the All-Star break.

"It's unreal going in knowing you have a chance even though the bats haven't been there, and knowing one run may be enough,'' slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. "You can go about the game completely differently.''

The Marlins (39-62), batting a major-league worst .232, have won four of five despite totaling 15 runs over that span.

They also rank last in the majors with 61 home runs, though Stanton hit the team's fourth in five games Friday. He's 4 for 6 in his last two games following a 2-for-21 slump.

Scheduled Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton (2-2, 3.35) has been plagued by the home run of late, giving up five in his last three outings after allowing none in his first four.

After allowing a season-high four earned runs in a 4-1 road loss to the Cubs on July 6, the right-hander has yielded five runs and 12 hits over 13 2-3 innings in consecutive quality starts.

Morton is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in six career starts against the Marlins, though he hasn't faced them since 2011.

Morton isn't expected to be throwing to catcher Russell Martin, who tweaked his left knee blocking home plate on a play in the second inning Friday. He left the game in the seventh and said he would likely take Saturday off.

"I've actually had something like this before, and I played with it in the past," Martin said. "It's a little uncomfortable, but it doesn't keep me from doing anything physically.''

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