Pirates-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

The Miami Marlins' lengthy winning streak against the Pittsburgh Pirates is over, but they could have the right man on the mound to avoid a two-game sweep.

Josh Johnson is still looking for his first victory in nearly 13 months, but he's dominated the light-hitting Pirates in three career starts and has an encouraging outing fresh in his mind as he prepares to take the hill again Tuesday night.

The Marlins (18-17) had more runs (48) than the Pirates had hits (44) during an eight-game series winning streak heading into the opener of this set in Miami. Pittsburgh only had six hits Monday but made them count, getting a homer and a double from Rod Barajas along with two-base hits from Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez in a 3-2 victory.

The Pirates became baseball's last team to hit the 100-run mark with Alvarez's tiebreaking sixth-inning double.

"We talked about it before the game," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We haven't beat them in a long time. It's time for us to do something."

The Pirates (17-18) have won three straight for the first time since July 17-19 - the point where they reached their high-water mark of seven games above .500 before collapsing.

They haven't won four in a row since June 21-25, and Johnson (0-3, 5.87 ERA) could keep them from leaving Miami with two victories in the same series for the first time since June 2007.

The right-hander has had a rough start after missing most of last season with right shoulder inflammation, but he showed some positive signs Wednesday in Houston. Five days after the shortest start of his career, Johnson held the Astros to two runs and four hits over seven innings while striking out six in a 5-3, 12-inning win.

Steve Cishek's blown save cost Johnson his first victory since beating the Pirates 6-0 on April 19, 2011, but the NL's 2010 ERA leader wasn't discouraged.

"I was just relaxed out there," Johnson told the Marlins' official website. "I've been trying to maybe muscle up and try and make pitches that way. But I was just relaxed and got myself calmed down."

To some extent, Johnson's problems can be attributed to bad luck. Opponents are hitting .410 against him on balls in play - the highest mark off any pitcher.

But his 2.73 FIP - fielding independent pitching, which looks at a pitcher's performance without regard to his defense - is among the majors' top 20, suggesting Johnson is due for a turnaround.

He won't want to change anything about his approach against the Pirates. Johnson gave up two hits and struck out nine in the victory last April, and he's 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three matchups.

Pittsburgh counters with Kevin Correia (1-3, 3.47), who has one of baseball's best opponent batting averages on balls in play (.213). He also has one of the majors' lowest run-support averages (2.23), so allowing Washington to score three runs over seven innings Thursday while he opposed Stephen Strasburg still resulted in a 4-2 loss, his third straight.

"Kevin pitched a professional game," Hurdle told the Pirates' official website. "Nineteen batters retired on three pitches or less. Unfortunately, there was no safety net for him."

Correia has allowed four homers in his last eight innings, and the long ball has been a problem in six career starts against Florida. He's allowed seven over 30 2-3 innings, going 2-3 with a 7.63 ERA.

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