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MIAMI (AP) — The best and worst teams in the NL are matching up this week, but it figures to be competitive.
The Pittsburgh Pirates dropped a series to the Miami Marlins last month and expect to be challenged in a three-game home set that starts Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh (67-44) owns the best ERA in the major leagues at 3.07, but Miami (43-67) has a lower ERA since the All-Star break at 2.51 compared to 3.10 for the Pirates.
The Marlins took two of three at home from Pittsburgh from July 26-28, and the Pirates know they can’t afford to overlook their opponents.
“We’ll get ready for business as usual against the Marlins,” manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website. “And we’re going to face three good young pitchers again.”
The first of those, Henderson Alvarez (2-1, 2.61 ERA), will start opposite Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.36) on Tuesday.
Those starters met July 26 with Alvarez earning his first win with Miami, yielding two hits in six innings of a 2-0 victory. Locke suffered a rare defeat after giving up two runs over 6 2-3 innings with a career-high nine strikeouts and six walks.
Giancarlo Stanton went 2 for 2 with a homer and two walks against Locke in a series in which he was 7 for 9 with two home runs.
The Marlins slugger hasn’t gone deep since, with two hits in his last 23 at-bats to go with eight strikeouts.
“It’s something you just go through, and it always works itself out eventually,” Stanton said. “You have your ups and downs, and you just have to overcome somehow.”
Locke will try to contain Stanton this time and pitch better than he did Wednesday, when he gave up four runs over a season-low four innings of a 5-4 victory over St. Louis.
The left-hander had not yielded more than three earned runs in his previous 17 outings. His other start against the Marlins came in his major league debut Sept. 10, 2011, when he gave up three runs over five innings of a 3-0 defeat.
Alvarez won his second straight outing by limiting the Mets to two runs over 7 1-3 innings of a 3-2 victory Wednesday.
“I felt I prepared well, and all of my pitches were working good,” said the right-hander, who also singled twice last week after doubling off Locke on July 26. Alvarez has gone 4 for 7 in his last three starts.
Pittsburgh is 6-2 on its 11-game homestand, taking the final two games of a weekend series with Colorado. Andrew McCutchen went 6 for 10 against the Rockies and is seeking four straight multihit efforts for the first time since June 29-July 3, 2012.
Leadoff hitter Starling Marte is 9 for 27 and has scored seven runs during an eight-game hitting streak.
Logan Morrison was 7 for 13 with four RBIs over the weekend as the Marlins dropped two of three at home to Cleveland.
Miami was swept in three games at Pittsburgh from July 20-22, 2012, after winning its previous six contests there.
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