It doesn't get any easier Friday, when Miami travels to Pittsburgh to face the red-hot Pirates.
The Pirates have homered in nine straight games, and to no surprise, center fielder and National League MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen has led the way, going deep in five of his last seven. It isn't just McCutchen, however. He's finally getting some help, as evidenced by the Major League-high 85 runs the Bucs have scored this month after also leading the Majors in that category in June.
Second baseman Neil Walker has hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games, and he and McCutchen are among the Major League leaders in batting average this month.
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit yet another home run Wednesday, capping a stretch in which four of his last five hits left the yard. And the Pirates have gotten a jolt from left fielder Alex Presley, who has hit safely in each of his last three games since returning from the disabled list.
Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco gets the first chance to slow the Pirates' offense on Friday, as the Marlins try to claw their way back into playoff contention. Nolasco had a stretch of three straight quality starts broken his last time out, when he allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Nationals. Nolasco has a 2.10 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) in his career against Pittsburgh.
"Starting pitching is huge," Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "They've all got to be at the top of their game right now if we're going to get back into this thing. I don't know if we've run out of time to catch the top team, but I don't think we've run out of time to catch a Wild Card team. ... It's imperative that they get it going. You're running out of time to put a run together."
Marlins: Mujica returns
Right-handed reliever Edward Mujica made his first appearance Thursday since suffering a broken pinky toe June 29 against the Phillies. Mujica was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday after the Marlins optioned right-hander Ryan Webb to Triple-A New Orleans following Tuesday night's win.
Mujica pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh against the Cubs, retiring the only batter he faced.
Pirates: Correia on the bump
Right-hander Kevin Correia takes the mound for the Pirates on Friday in his second start since the All-Star break. The right-hander is on a three-game winning streak and struck out a season-high six batters his last time out against the Brewers. He struggled against the Marlins on May 15, giving up six runs -- five in the fourth inning -- while lasting only 3 2/3 innings.
Rookie Jared Hughes has allowed only one of his 17 inherited runners to score this season.
With 73 home runs, McCutchen is one homer shy of tying Vince DiMaggio for third most in Pirates history as a center fielder.
Presley is hitting .303 with two triples, one homer and two RBIs in his last seven games.
Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes extended his hit streak to seven games with a 1-for-4 performance Thursday. Reyes does not have a multi-hit game during the steak.