The Miami Marlins are looking to pick up their third series win in a row by beating the Houston Astros tonight. The Fish were dominant in their first game against the team but struggled offensively despite another solid outing by Anibal Sanchez and fell 3-2 to the Astros yesterday. Tonight, the Fish throw out the pitcher who is supposed to represent their best, Josh Johnson. Out to battle them is Lucas Harrell of the Astros, who is best known to Marlins fans as the starter who was roughed up during the game in which Heath Bell blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning (in the game that I attended, of all things)
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On the surface, this matchup looks like a grave mismatch for the Astros. Harrell last faced the Marlins when the Fish were at home debuting their new stadium on the team's first home stand. Harrell started the second game of that series, in which he gave up four runs and four innings and made a fairly quick exit before Bell eventually blew the save and the game. Johnson is a projected ace who, if the cards fell right for the Fish, would be helping to lead the team to the playoffs. Instead, Johnson has been miserable thus far in terms of suppressing hits on balls in play. The rest of his game, however, has not been as bad as advertised, as his strikeouts and walks are worse than usual but still reasonably decent and he has yet to allow a home run this season. His 52 percent ground ball rate is the best he has posted in his career, and all that is hindering him is a lot of bad luck and some poor pitch placement. Here's hoping he recovers tonight.
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The Marlins made a number of changes to the lineup, putting in Greg Dobbs and Donnie Murphy to rest Gaby Sanchez and Omar Infante respectively. This time, Ozzie Guillen did not simply plug those players in to their respective positions' lineup slots. Instead, he made the much-clamored move of promoting Giancarlo Stanton up to at least the five-slot while demoting the slumping Emilio Bonifacio down to seventh in the order. Oddly enough, the Fish could make a decent lineup out of this just by moving Logan Morrison up to the second slot and Stanton up to cleanup, but that would be too logical and outside of traditional lineup slot roles that are outdated and ridiculous.
Bold Prediction: Marlins def. 6-4