PITTSBURGH (CBSMiami/AP) – One of the biggest reasons for the Miami Marlins’ recent struggles is their starting pitching.
That hasn’t been the case for their current opponent.
Four straight dominant outings from their starting pitchers has led to four straight victories for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jeff Locke will be tasked with extending that streak on Tuesday night when the Pirates host the Marlins.
Pittsburgh (22-22) completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets over the weekend, with its starting pitchers posting a 0.84 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 21 1-3 innings. It received another stellar outing Monday from Charlie Morton, who pitched seven strong innings in a 4-2 victory over Miami in his season debut.
For a team seeking its third consecutive postseason berth, Monday’s win moved Pittsburgh back to .500.
“This isn’t the ’13 team. This isn’t the ’14 team. This is the ’15 team, that to me hadn’t established any identity through the first 40 games,” manager Clint Hurdle told MLB’s official website. “I like the way this team has responded. I like this team a lot. I like their makeup. I like their guts. But we’ve got to play better baseball.”
Locke (2-2, 5.28 ERA) opened the season with two wins and a 1.93 ERA in two starts, but has a 6.75 ERA in six outings since. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings Wednesday and did not factor into the decision in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota.
Locke was impressive in two starts against the Marlins last year. The left-hander went at least seven innings in each, had a 3.00 ERA and led Pittsburgh to two victories.
He’ll face a Marlins lineup that had all eight positional starters tally a hit in the series opener. However, the bulk of the offensive production again fell to Giancarlo Stanton, who drove in both runs and hit his 13th home run.
Stanton, who entered Monday in a 3-for-30 slump, leads the majors with 42 RBIs, while the Marlins (18-28) rank toward the bottom of baseball with 175 runs.
“It’s great to see him relaxed and do the things he’s capable of doing,” manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website. “He can also put a team on his back and carry us for a while.”
Stanton is 6 for 12 with two homers and a double against Locke.
He’ll try to continue that production in support Jose Urena (0-0, 9.00), who makes his first major league start. Urena, 23, allowed three runs in three innings of relief in April before he was sent to the minors. The right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA in six starts for Triple-A New Orleans, allowing one run over seven innings at Nashville on May 18.
“He’s definitely capable of pitching up here,” Jennings said. “It’s his opportunity right now to step up and give us a much-needed boost.”
He’ll have to contend Tuesday with a Pittsburgh team that is batting .305 with 25 runs and 15 extra-base hits during its four-game streak.
Pedro Alvarez is 5 for 10 with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs in his last three games, while Francisco Cervelli also homered Monday and has four RBIs in his last three.
Andrew McCutchen has also been heating up. Despite going hitless Monday, the former MVP is batting .474 with three home runs in his last five games. He is hitting .404 in 15 games with the Marlins since the start of 2012.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)