MLB Insiders: Florida Marlins

The Pirates open a three-game series with the Marlins in Florida on Tuesday night. Lefty Paul Maholm will start for the Bucs. The Marlins will toss right-hander Josh Johnson.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won their first three road series for the first time since 2002. The start of their fourth one doesn't appear to be easy.

After their best offensive output of the season, the Pirates will be up against Josh Johnson on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game set with the Florida Marlins.

Pittsburgh (8-8) owns the third-best road mark in the majors at 7-3. The Pirates entered a four-game series at Cincinnati as the NL's lowest-scoring team before scoring 24 while taking three of four from the NL Central leaders.

Confidence will be required against Johnson (2-0, 1.35 ERA), already off to a strong start after leading the NL with a 2.30 ERA in 2010. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and struck out nine Wednesday to earn a 5-1 victory at Atlanta.

The right-hander, who exited after allowing rookie Freddie Freeman's double in the eighth, also held the New York Mets hitless for six innings on opening day.

Johnson is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh.

The Pirates will start Paul Maholm (0-2, 2.33), who is 0-4 with a 5.90 ERA in his last seven road starts. Maholm's losses this season have been at home, including Thursday's 4-1 defeat to Milwaukee in which he yielded two runs over seven innings.

The left-hander has given up two first-inning runs in each of his losses.

Maholm is 3-4 with a 4.89 ERA in seven career starts against the Marlins.

The middle of their order continues to struggle for offense, but the Marlins are feeling good after going 5-3 on their first trip.

They won three of the five games against division rivals Philadelphia and Atlanta. And they rallied to either tie the game or take the lead five times on the trip.

"All the close games are the ones we lost just about every time last year," right fielder Mike Stanton said. "It shows we are bringing new strengths, a new feel for the game compared to last year. It's a good feeling."

Omar Infante is batting .222, Hanley Ramirez .244 and Stanton .194. That's a combined 30-for-135 (.222) from the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters.

"We had a very good trip without Omar's or Hanley's or Stanton's offense," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "The time will come when we're going to score more runs for this bullpen and for the starters." "We all feel very good about the whole road trip," Rodriguez said. "The pitching was good, the defense was good, we came from behind three or four games. Overall it was a very, very good road trip. We're very pleased with what we have seen so far."

Notes, Quotes

* RHP Josh Johnson makes his first start Tuesday since losing a no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning. Johnson has taken no-hitters into the seventh inning in two of his three starts this year. On Tuesday, Johnson faces the Pittsburgh Pirates in Miami. He's 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates.

* RF Mike Stanton admits he is getting anxious about an early-season slump. He is batting .194 (6-for-31) and is looking for his first home run. "I was really jumpy the past couple of games," he said. "No big deal."

* Donnie Murphy was walking with a limp Sunday—to days after being hit on the left knee by a foul ball. He's not sure when he'll return. "There is no timetable," he said. "Bruised bones are tricky."

* RHP Anibal Sanchez has been working hard with the rest of the starters on holding runners on base. It paid off Sunday, with some help from the baserunner. Shane Victorino slipped trying to get back to first base in the fifth inning and was picked off, never reaching the bag.

* C John Buck is eager to talk about why he wears the No. 14 on his Marlins uniform—it's to remember his brother, Paul, who committed suicide in 1990 before his senior year in high school. "I always wore No. 11, he was always 44; so I took one from each of those numbers," said Buck, who signed a three-year contract with the Marlins on Nov. 17. "He was bipolar. Maybe by talking about it, I can help someone get help." Gaby Sanchez wore No. 14 last year. "I dropped my sob story on him to soften him up," Buck said with a laugh. "He gave it up pretty quick. To show him how much I appreciated it, I did get him a little bribe gift." Sanchez this year wears No. 15, and the "little bribe" he received from Buck was a Breitling Bentley watch.

By The Numbers: 5—Consecutive appearances converted for saves by closer Leo Nunez over a period from April 6-15. Last year, Nunez blew his first save chance before converting four in a row. He converted 10 straight save opportunities last July.

Quote To Note: "It isn't one of my goals. If it happens, it's really special." —RHP Josh Johnson, after losing a no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning April 13 in Atlanta. Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh inning April 1 against the Mets and into the fourth inning April 7 against Washington.

Roster Report
Medical Watch:

* 3B Donnie Murphy (bone bruise) had an X-ray on his left knee on April 17 and still was limping. Murphy was listed as day-to-day but it was doubtful he could return to the starting lineup on April 19. He fouled a ball off his left knee in the ninth inning April 15.

* C John Baker (Tommy John surgery in September 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. He might be able to play as soon as he is eligible.


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