Mets-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

Kelly Shoppach continues to be a welcome surprise for the New York Mets.

His performance in the clutch has them in position to sweep the Miami Marlins on the road for the first time in five years.

Shoppach is likely to be back in the lineup as the Mets go for a seventh win in eight tries Sunday.

New York (63-70) acquired Shoppach from Boston on Aug. 14 in an attempt to shore up its issues behind the plate. Catcher Josh Thole and backup Mike Nickeas have largely been disappointing this season, hitting .237 and .168, respectively, while combining for two homers and 32 RBIs.

Thole has also struggled defensively with 16 passed balls, matching his total from last year.

Shoppach has 27 in his eight seasons in the majors, and now he's also providing the Mets with some offense. He's batting .346 with two homers and seven RBIs in nine games since the trade, and is 6 for 11 while plating five runs in the past four - all New York victories.

Shoppach came up big off the bench in place of Thole on Saturday, sparking a four-run ninth in a 5-3 victory over Miami (59-74). He cleared the bases with a two-out single as center fielder Justin Ruggiano misplayed the ball allowing the third run to score.

That effort came four days after Shoppach went 3 for 5 with a two-run homer in the 10th inning of a 9-5 win over Philadelphia.

"No matter where you are in this game, those are big moments, not only personally, but as far as the momentum going for us," Shoppach said.

His hot bat may be reason enough for him to start ahead of Thole, as the Mets try to sweep a series in Miami for the first time since winning all three meetings from May 25-27, 2007.

Shoppach's success against scheduled Marlins starter Mark Buehrle may be another reason for him to play. He's 8 for 18 with four homers and two doubles off the veteran.

Buehrle (12-11, 3.62), though, enters this meeting looking to match his season-high four-game winning streak set June 24-July 14.

The left-hander limited Los Angeles to one run and six hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-2 victory Wednesday, and improved to 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA in his past three starts.

He has a 2.63 ERA in two starts against the Mets - both this year - but lost his only decision since he's been backed by four total runs.

The most recent matchup came at home on May 11, when Buehrle yielded two runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-5 victory.

The Mets are scheduled to turn to Chris Young (3-7, 4.64), who's won once in 10 starts and is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in his last four appearances. That stretch started with a 13-0 home loss to Miami on Aug. 8, when the right-hander was tagged for seven runs - three in the first - and three homers in 4 1-3 innings.

Young struggled early again in his latest outing, yielding a grand slam in the opening inning before giving up a solo shot, and leaving with one out in the fifth of a 9-5, 10-inning win at Philadelphia.

"I had trouble finding my rhythm in the first inning," Young said. "I dug us a hole and the guys picked me up."

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