The Miami Marlins finally are playing the type of baseball they envisioned after entering this season with high expectations.
If their recent dominance of the Pittsburgh Pirates is a factor, they shouldn't have much trouble staying hot.
With eight straight wins over Pittsburgh, Miami seeks an 11th victory in its last 13 games overall when it hosts the opener of a two-game set Monday night.
The Marlins (18-16) started slowly, fighting through outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen's five-game suspension and the struggles of high-priced closer Heath Bell.
They lost eight of nine April 20-30, but have since won 10 of 12 after Sunday's 8-4 come-from-behind victory over the New York Mets.
Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 2.01 ERA) will take the mound after he allowed two unearned runs over seven innings in Miami's 3-2 loss to Houston on Tuesday that ended the team's seven-game winning streak.
The right-hander, who has gone seven innings in each of his last four starts, is 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh. His most recent look at them was one of his best outings in the majors, a one-hitter in which he struck out 11 while winning 3-0 on Sept. 10.
The Marlins' offense has provided plenty of support during the team's winning streak over the Pirates, outscoring them 48-12.
Pittsburgh (16-18) is hitting .175 against Miami in that span, and its offense hasn't been much better against the rest of the league.
The Pirates' 97 runs rank last in baseball, and the lack of offense has done little to help a pitching staff with a stellar 3.15 ERA.
A.J. Burnett allowed two runs in eight innings before Josh Harrison delivered an RBI single in the 12th to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win over Houston on Sunday.
Left-hander Erik Bedard was scheduled to face the Marlins on Monday, but he's yet to fully recover from back spasms that forced him to leave after the first inning of Wednesday's 4-2 win over Washington.
Brad Lincoln (2-0, 0.63) earned the victory in that contest after allowing one unearned run and one hit in three innings, and he'll make his first start of the season in Bedard's place.
The right-hander, who is 3-7 with a 5.54 ERA in 17 career starts, has pitched only a scoreless inning of relief against the Marlins.
Jose Reyes thinks he has gotten his groove back.
The reigning National League batting champ went into Sunday batting .256 thanks to a 7-for-14 hot streak over his last three games. He had his first four-hit game for the Marlins on Saturday.
"I'm still not quite where I want to be, but it's getting close," said Reyes, who batted .337 last year with the Mets.
"When I play on top of my game I'm going to help this ballclub win a lot more ballgames. I got four hits (Saturday), but we lost the game -- I feel like I didn't do anything."
Reyes said he doesn't think he has been trying too hard to make a big impression after signing a six-year, $106 million contract in December.
"I don't think I put pressure on myself because I signed a big contract here. It's a long season. You're going to go through some struggles," he said.
"I believe in my talent. I believe in what I can do on the field. I know from the bottom of my heart that I'm going to turn it around."
Reyes hit .220 in April. He is batting .326 (16-for-49) in May.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano allowed two runs (one earned) in the fourth inning Sunday, snapping a streak of 19 scoreless innings for him. Zambrano, coming off a complete-game shutout in San Diego, didn't get the decision in Miami's 8-4 win over the Mets, but his ERA fell to 1.89.
--RF Giancarlo Stanton went 3-for-5, and his last hit was the biggest -- a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that capped a six-run rally for the Marlins in an 8-4 win over the Mets. Stanton is batting .354 (17-for-48) with four doubles, six homers and 13 RBI in 12 games in May.
--RHP Ricky Nolasco suffered his first loss of the season Saturday with an unusual performance. He walked the first two batters of the game and walked three in the first inning -- after walking three in his previous 21 innings (three starts) combined. He hit consecutive batters with pitches -- after not hitting anyone all year.
"I apologize to my teammates for that one," said Nolasco (4-1, 3.65), who has 68 career wins and needs one more to become the Marlins' all-time leader. "That was pretty ugly. ... I don't think I have ever done that ugly before."
--C Brett Hayes said he will have to make an adjustment after being called for catcher's interference Saturday for the second time this year.
Andres Torres looked as if he flied out for the final out of the fourth inning. Left fielder Logan Morrison made a routine catch and jogged toward the Marlins' dugout, but he didn't see Torres' bat knock Hayes' glove off the catcher's hand.
"He hit my glove to third base," Hayes said.
Asked the last time that has happened to him twice in the same season, Hayes replied: "Little League? Now I have two in three weeks. Obviously, I'll have to make an adjustment."
Hayes said he can't explain why it is happening.
"I'm not any closer than I've ever been. I believe I'm a little further back than most catchers," he said. "Maybe I should move back a little further."
--OF Kevin Mattison, called up a day earlier from Class AAA New Orleans, made his major league debut as a pinch hitter Saturday. He bounced out in the ninth inning.
BY THE NUMBERS: 26 -- Quality starts for the Marlins pitching staff after Carlos Zambrano allowed one earned run in seven innings. Miami was second in the majors in that category through Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That one was one of those no-doubters right off the bat. It was good that I could sit and watch it in a situation like that rather than a little scraper you don't really know." -- RF Giancarlo Stanton on his walk-off grand slam to center field Sunday.