They aren't quite as hot entering Monday night's series opener, but the scuffling Marlins could help the Pirates reach a water mark not seen since Barry Bonds' last year with the club.
Pittsburgh (74-48) is a win away from being 27 games over .500 for the first time since 1992, which was one of Bonds' three MVP seasons in Pittsburgh.
The former MVP currently on the roster, Andrew McCutchen, helped the Pirates to Sunday's 5-2 victory over San Francisco with a home run. Pedro Alvarez also left the yard and is batting .390 with five homers in his last 14 games.
They've won nine of 11 but remain 3 1/2 games back of St. Louis and three games clear of the Chicago Cubs in the competitive NL Central. A win in the opener would give them a season-best five-game road winning streak.
The Marlins (50-74) lost the last three of a four-game home set with Philadelphia and have scored three runs while batting .154 on the skid. Since the All-Star break, they're 12-23 and are back in a tie for last place with the Phillies.
"We had like (six of eight) games where we grinded out 10 or more hits, scored six or more runs, and then all of a sudden, it disappears," manager Dan Jennings told MLB's official website. "We'll be back at it tomorrow. We'll start a new series. Hopefully we can continue to get good starting pitching and put some runs up that will allow us to help."
The Pirates swept a three-game series in Pittsburgh from May 25-27, giving them five straight wins in the series and 10 in the last 12. They held Miami to five runs in those three games, and J.A. Happ seemed sharp enough in his latest start to rival those numbers.
Happ (1-1, 2.87 ERA) has gotten better in each of his three starts with the Pirates, though he's yet to make it beyond six innings. The left-hander gave up two hits in six scoreless innings of Wednesday's 4-1 home win over Arizona.
"Just pitching with a lot more confidence, figuring himself out," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he was able to make some minor adjustments and it was fun to watch him out there tonight."
Including his time with Seattle, the left-hander is 2-4 with a 5.63 mark in 12 away starts this season. In his early days in the NL, Happ went 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in six starts against the Marlins, but he hasn't faced them since 2012 with Houston. Ichiro Suzuki is 4 for 7 against him, so he could be in the lineup against a left-hander.
Happ will be opposed by Tom Koehler, whose year has shifted drastically downward.
Koehler (8-11, 4.02) was putting together a strong season until just after the All-Star break, reaching 8-6 with a 3.16 ERA with a win July 23. He's since lost five straight starts with a 7.48 ERA. The worst of the bunch came in Wednesday's 8-7 loss in Milwaukee as the right-hander gave up seven runs and nine hits with four walks in 4 1-3 innings.
The last three have come on the road, and he's 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA in nine home starts despite surrendering 11 earned runs over 10 1-3 innings of his last two at Marlins Park.
Koehler has also lost all three of his starts against Pittsburgh with a 6.75 ERA. McCutchen is 2 for 4 with a home run in the matchup.