The Miami Marlins were supposed to challenge for the NL East title this season, but they're well back of the division lead with half the season gone.
Perhaps the addition of first baseman Carlos Lee can provide a second-half boost.
With Lee expected to make his Marlins debut Thursday, Miami will try to salvage a split of this four-game series with the host Milwaukee Brewers .
The offseason spending spree to acquire shortstop Jose Reyes , closer Heath Bell and Thursday's scheduled starter Mark Buehrle (7-8, 3.48 ERA) looked great on paper as the Marlins prepared to open their new stadium, but the product on the field has been far from spectacular.
The Marlins (39-42) rallied from four down in the seventh inning and snapped a 10-game losing streak to Milwaukee (38-43) on Wednesday with a 7-6, 10-inning victory, yet they trail East-leading Washington by nine games."Every time I say (a win can get us on track), we lose three in a row," said manager Ozzie Guillen , whose team has dropped 19 of 27.
Gaby Sanchez 's ninth-inning, game-tying solo homer off Brewers closer John Axford helped the Marlins end a six-game skid in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The celebration didn't last long, as the struggling first baseman was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans following the game to make room for Lee, who was acquired from Houston for minor leaguers Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen.
Lee, a former Brewer, is batting .287 with five homers and 29 RBIs."It's a huge move, I think, the front office, showing people how much we want to win," Guillen said.
The Marlins conclude this series with Buehrle trying to win a season high-tying third consecutive start. The left-hander has a 1.29 ERA in his last two outings after opening June with four consecutive losses.
Buehrle faced the Brewers just twice during his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, but both were memorable performances. He hit his only career home run in Milwaukee on June 14, 2009, after making his major league debut against the Brewers in relief July 16, 2000.
Milwaukee will counter with Michael Fiers (3-2, 2.29) after its season-best four-game home winning streak ended Wednesday.
The rookie right-hander has not surrendered a run in his last 18 1-3 innings after striking out 10 over six innings of two-hit ball in Saturday's 10-2 victory over Arizona.
"He's a hard guy to figure out for hitters," manager Ron Roenicke said. "The ball is all over the place. He's been great for us."
Fiers, a native of Hollywood, Fla., will face the Marlins for the first time. The Brewers could use a lengthy outing with the bullpen blowing two saves, walking six and getting tagged for five homers in 10 innings this series.
Miami's relievers have also struggled, walking four and surrendering six runs in 11 2-3 innings.
Anyone pitching to Marlins outfielder Justin Ruggiano should be careful. He's batting .520 (13 for 25) during a seven-game hitting streak and has gone deep in all three contests at Miller Park.
Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki , who is batting .395 (17 for 43) during a team-best 11-game hitting streak, could shift over to right field Thursday with Carlos Gomez back in center after getting Wednesday off.
Gomez is 8 for 21 with two homers, a triple and two doubles off Buehrle.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is expected to miss a third consecutive game with a sore right knee.
|June 30, 2012||Edward Mujica||15-Day DL||Fractured right pinkie toe|
|June 16, 2012||Sandy Rosario||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
|May 23, 2012||Austin Kearns||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 23, 2012||Austin Kearns||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 19, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||15-Day DL||Left thumb sprain|
|May 18, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||Day-to-Day||Left game - left thumb sprain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
|May 28, 2012||Jonathan Lucroy||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand, out 4-6 weeks|
|May 26, 2012||Cesar Izturis||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|May 26, 2012||Travis Ishikawa||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Mark Buehrle welcomed Carlos Lee to the Marlins with some good-natured ribbing and, more importantly, a victory.
Lee doubled and scored in his debut, Buerhle struck out a season-best eight over 7 2-3 innings and Miami beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 Thursday to split the four-game series.
Buehrle (8-8) allowed only six hits to the Brewers, who had produced 25 runs the previous three games.
"Maybe they're tired of swinging the bats so much and getting runs," he said. "We scored just a few more than they did."
The left-hander was challenged in the fourth when the Brewers had runners at the corners with two outs, but he struck out Rickie Weeks to end the threat.
Buehrle said that he barely remembered Lee from their days together on the Chicago White Sox, but he made sure not to let Lee forget his first day as a Marlin.
"I got on him before the game," Buehrle said. "I said, `I thought we were getting a run producer. You only have 29 RBIs."'
Lee gave it back as good as he got it.
"He said he hasn't had a guy on base, for something like three months, to drive in," Buehrle recounted Lee's response.
When Lee struck out swinging, the teasing continued.
"We didn't acquire you for this," Buehrle said of the heckling. "Then, of course the double, this is what we got (you for)."
The jabs continued throughout the game, but after the fourth inning, the Brewers failed to advance a runner to third.
Lee took it all with a smile, but was happier with the outcome.
"Especially winning the game, it's awesome," Lee said. "Anything I can do, I'm up for it."
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen relieved Buerhle with one on and two outs in the eighth, and Steve Cishek stranded Cody Ransom at second when he struck out pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa .
Buehrle, who came in with a 1.29 ERA in his last two starts, has three consecutive wins with at least seven strikeouts. His current run came after four straight losses.
Milwaukee starter Mike Fiers (3-3) said that Buehrle is tough even though for most of the game he was just as good.
"Everything kind of looks like a fastball," Fiers said of Buehrle's pitching. "That's why he's one of the best pitchers. To get a couple runs off him is big, but he had one of those games today."
The last four Brewers games have been one-run games and decided in the last at-bat.
Greg Dobbs made it tougher for Milwaukee to duplicate that when he hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Jose Veras in the top of the ninth for Miami.
Randy Choate started the ninth and immediately hit Norichika Aoki , prompting Guillen to bring in Heath Bell , who got Ryan Braun to hit into his third double play of the game.
"It's rare," Braun said of his futility. "It's a rare occurrence."
Aramis Ramirez then singled, but Bell struck out Corey Hart to end it.
Lee needed just two at-bats in his first game with the Marlins to make his presence known. He struck out in the first before doubling in the fourth. Hustling all the way, he scored easily on Logan Morrison 's single.
"That's the way I play the game," Lee said. "I always enjoy my time. Have fun, and like I say, try my best."
Morrison snapped Fiers' streak of scoreless innings at 21 1-3 with the run-scoring hit. Fiers allowed two runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out nine, one off his season high.
Fiers was just as tough as Buehrle and limited Miami to that one run on six hits until getting chased in the eighth.
Jose Reyes singled and took third on Lee's one-out single. Manny Parra relieved Fiers, who left to a standing ovation. Morrison hit into a fielder's choice to score Reyes before Veras took over for Parra and retired Justin Ruggiano on a grounder to second to end the inning.
Lee, acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros on Wednesday, started at first base.
NOTES: The temperature was 101 degrees at first pitch. ... Aoki extended his Brewers-best hitting streak to 12 games. ... Marlins All-Star RF Giancarlo Stanton missed his third consecutive game with discomfort in his right knee. ... Miami, which also received cash in the Lee trade, sent a pair of minor-leaguers, INF Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen, to Houston. ... After Gomez struck out swinging in the sixth, he slammed his bat and broke it. ... Justin Ruggiano went 7 for 16 with three home runs, a double and five RBIs in the series.