The Miami Marlins appear to be back.
For the first half of the season, the Marlins were one of the surprise teams in baseball. Then, Miami lost its first eight games after the All-Star break.
On Monday, however, the Marlins beat the Houston Astros 5-1 for their third straight win, their longest winning streak since July 3-5. The teams will play the second game of a three-game set on Tuesday in Miami.
The Marlins will start right-hander Johnny Cueto (0-3, 5.33 ERA) on Tuesday as they go for a series win. In 15 career starts against Houston, Cueto is 5-6 with a 3.14 ERA.
Miami is just 1-5 in Cueto's six games this year, but he is giving the Marlins decent length, going six innings in three of his past four starts.
Houston will start Cristian Javier (8-2, 4.36). The right-hander, who has never faced the Marlins, has a high spin rate on his fastball and curve. His slider, meanwhile, is regarded as one of the best in baseball.
However, while Javier held opponents to a .170 batting average last year, that number has shot up to .232 this year. He allowed 17 homers all of last season, in 148 2/3 innings. This year, he has already allowed 18 homers in 117 2/3 innings.
Even so, the Astros are a healthy 15-7 this year when Javier pitches, including an 8-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles last Wednesday. Javier gave up two runs on four hits in five innings during that contest. His previous nine starts featured eight no-decisions and one loss.
"He had been trying to get that eighth win forever," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Javier. "Everyone puts importance on ERA, but if you're out there doing the work, you might as well get the win."
It's not easy for the opposition to earn wins against the reigning World Series champion Astros.
"They have big name after big name in their lineup," Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. "They hit into a lot of loud outs (on Monday)."
Miami got the bulk of its offense from three consecutive eighth-inning at-bats, when Jorge Soler, Luis Arraez and Josh Bell hit solo homers. It was just the second time in Marlins history that they went deep in three straight at-bats. They also managed such a trifecta in 1998.
Bell, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday, has hit five homers in 12 games since Miami acquired him from the Cleveland Guardians just prior to the trade deadline.
Gurriel is still intensely popular with his former teammates.
"He's a great player," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. "If you look back at his career, dating back to when he was playing in Cuba, he may be one of the better players to play baseball ever. So the baseball knowledge is one thing, but also just the teammate and friend that he was to everybody was amazing."
—Field Level Media