The Miami Marlins' Henderson Alvarez has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors for the past six-plus weeks. The short-handed St. Louis Cardinals rotation could use that kind of consistency from one of their top prospects soon.
Recent call-up Marco Gonzales tries to avoid another poor performance Sunday while the Cardinals get their first look at the red-hot Alvarez.
Alvarez (5-3, 2.33 ERA) has allowed two runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts dating back to May 22, going 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA. Only Clayton Kershaw has a lower ERA among qualifying starters in that span at 0.97.
The Marlins (42-45) have won the last nine starts made by Alvarez, though the bullpen cost him a victory Tuesday. He gave up two runs in seven innings and left with a two-run lead, but Miami ended up needing 11 innings to win 5-4.
Alvarez, in his fourth major league season and second with the Marlins, has helped fill the void created by ace Jose Fernandez undergoing season-ending elbow surgery in mid-May.
"He's really come back this season and kept throwing the way he had last year," infielder Ed Lucas told MLB's official website. "Especially with us losing Jose, he's really picked us up in (his) absence and been our ace."
St. Louis (47-41) would like Gonzales to claim that title in the near future, and the Cardinals could use some effective outings with starters Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha on the shelf due to ailing shoulders.
Gonzales (0-1, 9.64) might need some time if his first two major league starts are an indication.
The left-hander, called up from Double-A on June 25, has allowed five runs and seven hits in each outing and only pitched 9 1-3 innings. He issued four walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-0 loss in San Francisco on Tuesday.
"We saw him pretty much the same (as last time), where you saw some very good innings and you saw some very good pitches," manager Mike Matheny told MLB's website. "And then they kind of snowballed on him and there were mistakes. ... He's capable of making good pitches all the way through, and we just haven't seen that quite yet."
After Gonzales' latest start, the Cardinals allowed a total of four runs in their next three games and won them all, including Friday's 3-2 victory in the series opener. They permitted just one run in the first five innings Saturday but blew a four-run lead and lost 6-5.
Christian Yelich hit a three-run homer in the sixth, and the Marlins pushed across two runs in the ninth to notch their third win in nine games. Jeff Baker had the go-ahead single to score Casey McGehee, who had singled in the tying run.
McGehee is 5 for 9 in this series and batting .373 during a 12-game hitting streak.
St. Louis' Yadier Molina is 7 for 11 with two walks in his last three games.
Peter Bourjos and Jhonny Peralta, who homered Saturday, are the only two Cardinals hitters to have faced Alvarez. Bourjos is 2 for 6 in his career versus the right-hander, and Peralta is 0 for 6.