Cardinals-Marlins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 24, 2012
The St. Louis Cardinals spoiled the debut of the Miami Marlins' new park in a brief visit back in April. With their next game in Miami, they'll try to match their longest win streak of the season. Jake Westbrook and his hot-hitting teammates will try to help deliver that fourth consecutive victory and the Cardinals' seventh in a row over the Marlins on Monday night. St. Louis won 4-1 in the first game at Marlins Park on April 4 with World Series MVP David Freese providing all the offense necessary with a two-run single in the opening frame. The Cardinals (38-35) head into their three-game stay in Miami after a sweep over Kansas City in which they scored 30 runs and pounded out 41 hits. That performance followed a 5-7 stretch in which they produced 34 runs. Freese hit the go-ahead single in the seventh inning of an 11-8 victory Sunday and St. Louis tacked on four more runs in the eighth. Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer in the first - he's tied for the NL lead with 20 - and had eight RBIs during the series. "We know we're a good offensive team that's going to be able to score runs," Beltran said. "It's good to see guys getting healthy and swinging the bat a lot better." Westbrook (6-6, 3.83 ERA) will try to earn his third win in as many starts by building on an outstanding outing. The right-hander gave up one unearned run, five hits and a walk Wednesday in his first complete game of the season, a 3-1 victory in Detroit on Wednesday night. He hadn't gone more than seven innings in any of his 22 previous starts dating to Aug. 10. Westbrook is 1-0 with a 2.96 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins (34-38), and he might get another win if the Cardinals can add to Ricky Nolasco's recent woes. The right-hander is 2-6 with a 7.36 ERA over his last eight starts, with Wednesday's visit to Fenway Park registering as by far the worst. Nolasco (6-6, 5.16) was tagged for a season-high nine runs over 3 1-3 innings in a 15-5 drubbing. He might not have it much easier Monday. Nolasco is 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals, one of two NL teams he's never beaten along with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Matt Holliday, who's 17 for 31 (.548) with 12 RBIs in his last eight games overall, is 9 for 18 with two homers, two doubles and a triple off Nolasco. The Marlins, who avoided a sweep with Sunday's 9-0 win against Toronto, are looking for their first back-to-back victories since June 2-3. They had lost six in a row and 15 of 17 before Hanley Ramirez called a players-only meeting Saturday night. Ramirez hit a two-run triple in the seventh inning of Sunday's win. Greg Dobbs went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and John Buck added a three-run shot. "I don't think it happened because of the meeting, but when you have a players' meeting and you act and play this way, that is something that is very positive. It's nice to see those guys having fun on the field," manager Ozzie Guillen said. The Cardinals have never won seven in a row over the Marlins and are seeking a series-high sixth consecutive win in Miami.
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