CHICAGO -- The Marlins will try to leave Wrigley Field this afternoon having accomplished two things they have yet to do this season: sweep an opponent and a three-game winning streak.
If there is a team the Marlins can do it against, it's the Cubs (14-20). Marlins ace Josh Johnson said before Wednesday's game he feels like the team could be on the verge of putting together a bit of a winning streak. If you remember, the Marlins started 11-1 last year before the wheels came off. After losing eight of 11 coming into this series, Johnson feels like the momentum start swinging in the other direction.
"For a couple weeks there, it felt like nothing could go right for us," Johnson said. "You had game-saving catches, big home runs. The last couple games, that has kind of gone away. Before that, we hadn't really been consistent enough as a whole team to get to the point where we could win four, five in a row. But I can definitely see us getting to the point where we could now."
To keep the good times rolling, Johnson will have to do something very few Marlins have -- beat Johan Santana on Thursday. Santana is 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA versus the Marlins in eight career starts. He beat Johnson and the Marlins on Opening Day, becoming the first of four Cy Young winners to beat the Fish this season in four tries.
"I just have to try and get deeper in the game because you know there is a 99.9 percent chance he is going to get six, seven, eight innings in," Johnson said of facing Santana. "That is just how good a pitcher he is. As an opposing starter pitcher you have to go as deep as possible and try to match him."
There aren't many Marlins who have had much success against Santana. Jorge Cantu (7 for 27), Chris Coghlan (1 for 3) and Gaby Sanchez (1 for 2) are the only Marlins who have better than .250 batting averages against him. Hanley Ramirez (.167), Cody Ross (.167), Wes Helms (.176) have just three hits against Santana lifetime. Dan Uggla is just 1 for 19.
LEROUX LEARNING THE HARD WAY... Before the season, Chris Leroux had only five games of major league seasoning coming out of the bullpen for the Marlins. But the 26-year old Canadian-born right-hander is loading up on tough experiences this year.
Tuesday night against the Cubs, he put himself in arguably the most difficult situation of the season -- and survived. With the Marlins up 3-1, Leroux gave up two hits, walked one and had the tying and winning runs standing on second and third base with Aramis Ramirez up and two outs in the eighth inning. After an eight-pitch battle, he finally got Ramirez to swing and miss at a high fastball on a 3-2 count to end the inning.
Leroux, who pumped his first as he bounced off the mound, caught some good-natured heckling from teammates after the game for celebrating like Yankees pitcher Jaba Chamberlain. He also received some compliments from catcher John Baker and manager Fredi Gonzalez for getting out of the mess.
"The other day in Washington we brought him in with first and secodn and he got a big double play to get Sanchez off the hook," Gonzalez said. "We're throwing him in situation, when he's successful, you hope he builds on tht stuf and keeps going forward.
"He's got a big arm, throws 93, 94 miles per hour with a big sinker and a nice changeup."
MAYBIN SAYS WRIST IS FINE... Outfielder Cameron Maybin found out there was a brick wall behind the ivy when he made a running catch against it Tuesday. Maybin jammed his right wrist on the play, but remained in the game.
After Tuesday's game, he said the wrist was fine. "Nothing a little ice can't fix," Maybin said.
Gonzalez didn't put Maybin in the lineup Wednesday, but said it wasn't because of the wrist. "As far as I know, he's fine," Gonzalez said. "The trainers didn't mention it at all this morning."