Mets-Marlins Preview


The Miami Marlins are still dealing with a leaky bullpen, but they proved to the New York Mets they can give as good as they get.

The two squads may be hoping for strong efforts from their respective starters Saturday, when the NL East rivals resume their series with the Marlins in search of their 10th victory in 11 games.

Miami has seen prized offseason acquisition and closer Heath Bell struggle to get acclimated in his new surroundings, with manager Ozzie Guillen demoting him earlier this week. The Marlins (17-15) have converted just five of 14 save opportunities thus far, with the bullpen compiling a 3.64 ERA - nearly two-thirds of a run higher than the starters.

Those issues were evident again Friday night as Edward Mujica blew the save chance as New York (18-14) rallied with a three-run rally in the eighth inning, but Bell may have provided a turning point with a scoreless ninth before Greg Dobbs provided a walkoff single with two out to plate Emilio Bonifacio with the winning run in a 6-5 victory.

''It means a lot to me to get my first win as a Marlin,'' said Bell, whom Guillen said he would again turn to as closer soon. ''I kind of stunk it up on the road trip.''

While it was only the second time in 10 opportunities Frank Francisco blew a save, his ERA is 6.59, and Mets' relievers have compiled a 4.40 mark while converting 10 of 15 chances overall.

''We have to put that game away,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Bonifacio had two hits for his second straight multihit game and also stole two bases to give him a major league-leading 17. The center fielder, though, has only two hits in 13 lifetime at-bats against Mets scheduled starter R.A. Dickey (4-1, 3.76 ERA), who has thoroughly baffled the Marlins since the start of last season.

The knuckleballer is 4-0 with a 0.33 ERA in his last four outings against Miami. That includes a victory April 25 in which he limited the Marlins to one run in seven innings while striking out a season high-tying seven in a 5-1 win.

Dickey is 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA in eight starts and 10 lifetime appearances versus the Marlins, but will have to work around Omar Infante, who is 12 for 25 with a double and two homers against him.

While Dickey has had his way with the Marlins of late, his counterpart Ricky Nolasco (4-0, 2.72) has done so with almost every opponent thus far this season. The right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his last three starts, conceding only four runs in 21 1-3 innings.

He limited San Diego to two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 win Sunday, tying him with Dontrelle Willis for a franchise-best 68th victory.

''It means a lot,'' Nolasco said. '' I am grateful for the opportunity they have given me to be here this long.''

He now gets a chance to not only pass Willis on the franchise's all-time wins list but also become the first Marlins starter to open 5-0 since "D-Train" accomplished the feat in 2005. Nolasco did not get a decision in Miami's 3-2 loss to the Mets on April 26, when Bell blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth after Nolasco - 5-7 with a 5.03 ERA in 20 starts and 22 overall games versus the Mets - surrendered one run in seven innings.

Mets third baseman David Wright is 22 for 57 (.386) with six doubles and four homers against Nolasco. Wright has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games, batting .397 with a homer and 10 RBIs.