Fish Finally Clicking

The Marlins headed into the All-Star break on a nice roll -- they beat the Astros on Sunday to complete their first four-game sweep since May 2010 and have a season-best five-game winning streak.

Now it's up to the Marlins to continue that momentum after the All-Star break and dig out of their spot at the bottom of the NL East.

"I hate to see it show up," manager Jack McKeon said of the break. "We're going good and everybody is in a great mental state. The train is moving north."

But there's still a long journey ahead. Florida is 7-3 in July after a dismal 5-23 June. Players know they must at least get to .500 over the next two weeks or the front office could decide to start trading key players.

Although they are 14 games out of first place, the Marlins are just five games under .500. And they are 11-8 since McKeon took over on June 20.

A key to their success will be the continued resurgence of Hanley Ramirez, who's batting .382 (13-for-34) in July, boosting his batting average to .242.

The team isn't counting on right-hander Josh Johnson, who won't return until August at the earliest because of a setback with his sore shoulder. That means the team will need Anibal Sanchez to continue being the ace while three other starting pitchers -- Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad -- continue their recent surges.

Another key player is Emilio Bonifacio, who has batting .441 (15-for-34) with eight stolen bases this month, all from the leadoff spot.

McKeon's goal in the second half is a simple one.

"If we can get to .500," he said, "it's the same thing I told the '03 team when they were 10 games under: Take it one game at a time. We can pick up a game or two a week. That's our goal. After we get to .500, we'll roll."

But McKeon took over the 2003 team in May before going to the World Series. The 2011 Marlins, a younger team with fewer veterans than the '03 club, has a tougher challenge: They don't have as many games left to make up the ground they lost in June.

NOTES, QUOTES
--CF Chris Coghlan started his rehab assignment Sunday, playing center field and batting leadoff for the Class A Jupiter Hammerheads. Coghlan, who went 0-for-3 with a walk, has been on the disabled list since June 17 with left knee inflammation. But he could be optioned to Class AAA New Orleans once he's ready.

--Manager Jack McKeon said he was leaning toward starting RHP Anibal Sanchez on Thursday in Chicago when the Marlins open the second half of the season against the Cubs. If that happens, McKeon said RHP Ricky Nolasco would start the second game in the four-game series. McKeon wasn't sure exactly who would go in the third and fourth games but said it would be RHP Chris Volstad and RHP Javier Vazquez.

--RHP Clay Hensley made another rehab start Saturday, allowing two unearned runs on one hit for Class A Jupiter. Hensley, who started the season as the Marlins' setup man, is being stretched out in his rehab starts so he can join the Marlins' rotation later this month when he comes off the disabled list (right shoulder sprain).

--SS Hanley Ramirez, who went 0-for-2 with 2 walks Sunday, heads into the All-Star break needing two hits to become just the third Marlins player to reach 1,000 in his career. Luis Castillo had 1,273 and Jeff Conine 1,005.

Since 2006, Ramirez's hits rank eighth in the majors over that period. Ichiro Suzuki leads with 1,215 since 2006.

--C John Buck said his wife doesn't ask him for much when it comes to baseball souvenirs. But he plans to give her the ball from his 100th career home run.

Friday, Brooke Buck reminded her husband that he has 99 career homers. "See if you can get that (baseball), if you ever hit it. I actually want that one," she told Buck.

After Buck connected Saturday off Houston's Brett Myers, the Marlins catcher laughed about his wife's request. "It was the first time I heard my wife say she wants something, so it's going to her, I suppose," he said.

--3B Emilio Bonifacio extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games with three hits Sunday.

On Saturday, he arrived late to the ballpark. Bonifacio's wife gave birth to the couple's first child at 2 p.m., about five hours before game time. Manager Jack McKeon said he made out two lineup cards, one with Bonifacio and one without.

"I like the one with him in it," McKeon said.

McKeon did have one problem with new daddy Bonifacio: "I was hoping we'd get some cigars. He didn't bring any cigars. I should have told him about the protocol."

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 -- Saves for RHP Leo Nunez. He had 20 saves at the All-Star break last year on his way to a career-high 30.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want to keep it going. The train's moving north and everybody's on it." -- Manager Jack McKeon, whose Marlins head into the All-Star break on a season-best five-game winning streak after a 5-4 win Sunday over the Astros.

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