Marlins pitchers aim to baffle Astros for series sweep

After stifling the Houston Astros’ lineup with runners in scoring position in back-to-back games, the visiting Miami Marlins will be looking to replicate their success on the mound on Sunday to sweep the three-game series.

The Astros went just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Saturday after going 2-for-16 in the same situation in the series opener on Friday.

Miami right-hander Anthony Bass had his 19th scoreless appearance in 23 outings this season despite loading the bases with no outs in the seventh inning. He responded with a strikeout of Michael Brantley before snaring a low line drive from Alex Bregman that led to an inning-ending double play.

“He’s thrown the ball better pretty much than anybody we’ve had over the course of the whole season,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I felt like it was a good pocket for him. Obviously, it didn’t start off very well. But to get out of that was obviously huge.”

Edward Cabrera (2-0, 0.75 ERA) has the starting assignment for Miami on Sunday in what will be his third start of the season and the first of his career against the Astros.

He allowed one run on two hits, two walks and struck out four across six innings of work in a 12-2 victory over the Nationals in his most recent outing.

The right-hander is the first pitcher in club history to work six innings or more while allowing two hits or fewer in each of his first two starts of the season.

Justin Verlander (7-2, 2.13) will get the nod for the Astros. He was victorious in his most recent start, allowing just one run on six hits. He walked two and posted a season-high 12 strikeouts in seven innings in Houston’s 4-1 win over the Mariners on Tuesday.

Verlander, who tossed a season-high 108 pitches in the win, is first in the American League in WHIP (0.84), tied for first in wins (7) and ranks second in opponent batting average (.183).

The right-hander has made two career starts against the Marlins, his last coming on April 5, 2016. He went six innings, allowing three hits, three runs and two walks while striking out five in a no-decision.

Miami is one of two teams that Verlander has yet to record a win against along with the Cincinnati Reds.

On the offensive side of things, Jeremy Pena will be looking to help squash Houston’s hitting woes with runners in scoring position.

The rookie shortstop has been in the spotlight as the apparent heir to two-time All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who signed with the Twins as a free agent last offseason.

Pena enters Sunday batting .270 and leads all rookies in WAR at 2.7, which also ranks 12th in the league.

Although, he did face some adversity on the defensive end on Saturday, slipping and falling while trying to field a ground ball in the second before making an error later in the frame.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said that’s all part of the learning process as a rookie.

“Just relax and play and be as natural as possible,” Baker said. “And learn from this situation because it’s going to pop up again. Once it pops up, then you know how to deal with it in the future.”

–Field Level Media