The Miami Marlins own the majors' worst record, but they've been playing much better lately.
Giving the ball to rookie Jose Fernandez could help the club continue its strong play Tuesday night when it opens a two-game series with the Minnesota Twins in Miami.
The Marlins are 25-50, but manager Mike Redmond's club has won 12 of 21 after taking three of four in San Francisco over the weekend.
"Awesome road trip,' Justin Ruggiano said after Sunday's 7-2 victory. "We played some tough teams (Giants and NL West-leading Arizona). To come out with a winning record (4-3), first time this year, you can see things turn around a little bit."
The pitching staff carried the club on the trip - posting a 2.31 ERA to overcome the team batting .211 - but Miami has been better at the plate over the last 21 games, averaging 4.2 runs and hitting .254. The Marlins score a MLB-low 3.1 runs per game and are 29th in batting at .230.
"Getting (Giancarlo) Stanton back and (Logan) Morrison back, it's a big boost to our ball club," Redmond told the Marlins' official website.
Stanton is batting .288 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 13 games since returning from hamstring injury, while Morrison has a .286 batting average since his season debut earlier this month following knee surgery.
The Marlins open their six-game homestand with Fernandez (4-4, 3.05 ERA) coming off a fourth straight quality start. The 20-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA during that stretch after giving up two runs in a season-high 7 1-3 innings of Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Arizona.
"I see him as a Cy Young (winner) in the near future because he's got all his pitches," Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero said. "He's that good.'
Fernandez wasn't as good in a 4-3 loss at the Twins (34-38) on April 23, surrendering four runs in five innings, three coming on a homer by rookie Oswaldo Arcia.
Kevin Correia (6-4, 3.87) allowed two runs in seven innings in beating Fernandez, yet his 6.52 ERA in 16 appearances versus Miami - which includes nine starts - is his worst against any team he's faced more than 12 times.
The veteran right-hander, though, has struck out 19 with one walk in his last three outings. Correia fanned six and issued no free passes in Wednesday's 7-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
"It was a rough start, giving up the (Alejandro De Aza) home run to start the game, but I was pretty good after that," Correia told the Twins' official website.
There's a chance Correia will face Ruggiano, Florida's leader with 11 homers and 28 RBIs, to start Tuesday's game after the center fielder led off Sunday's contest with a homer and added a two-run shot in the ninth.
"We just led him off in hopes he'd put together some good at_bats and it happened, he hit a couple of big home runs," Redmond said following Ruggiano's third career start as a leadoff hitter.
Since capping off the April 23 doubleheader with an 8-5 victory, the Marlins have dropped seven straight to AL opponents.
Minnesota is 7-3 in interleague play since opening 1-6 against the NL this season.
The Twins took two of three in their only previous visit to Miami in 2007. Josh Willingham, Minnesota's leader with 10 homers, was hitless in nine at_bats for the Marlins in that series.
The Associated Press News Service
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