The Miami Marlins have reached a soft spot on their schedule, and they are taking full advantage of it.
Miami is off to a 4-0 start in a six-game stretch during which it plays the two worst teams in the majors. The Marlins will look for a fifth straight victory on Tuesday when they host the Kansas City Royals.
After sweeping the Oakland Athletics, whose 12-50 record is the worst in the majors, Miami beat the Royals 9-6 on Monday in the series opener. Kansas City holds the second-worst record in baseball at 18-42.
Left-hander Jesus Luzardo (4-4, 4.05 ERA) will attempt to make sure that the Marlins don't end up playing down to their competition when he makes his 13th start of the season on Tuesday.
In his most recent outing, Luzardo took a loss after allowing five runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings against the San Diego Padres on Thursday. He walked one and fanned eight.
Luzardo has made two career appearances against Kansas City, both in relief, and he surrendered five runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings.
The Marlins' offense is powered by second baseman Luis Arraez, who leads the majors with a .399 batting average after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Monday.
Arraez is a major bargain, as he is playing this season on an arbitration salary worth $6.1 million. He was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins in January.
With Minnesota, Arraez won the American League batting title last season with a .316 average. He is now well on pace to hit over .300 for the fourth time in his five-year career.
"This guy's hitting almost .400," Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. "It's crazy, so I don't really have a comp to be honest, because I've never seen it."
The task of slowing Arraez on Tuesday will fall to Kansas City starter Zack Greinke (1-5, 4.19 ERA). The veteran right-hander has not won a game since May 3, when he beat the Baltimore Orioles with five shutout innings.
The Royals are 3-9 this season when Greinke starts, and they have lost the past four times he took the mound.
Although Greinke only has one quality start in 12 outings this season, he has a strong track record against the Marlins, going 7-0 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against Miami.
If Greinke wants to continue his dominance of the Marlins, he will have to lean on a young Kansas City offense that was averaging three runs per game in its past seven contests before putting up six in the opener at Miami.
Despite taking the loss, the Royals did show life on Monday, getting a pair of hits from Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez and Salvador Perez.
Pratto, who homered, has hit safely in six of his past seven games. He is batting .370 (10-for-27) with two homers, two RBIs, four runs and two doubles during that span.
"I feel like I have gotten a few more pitches to hit being in that leadoff spot," Pratto said. "That fluctuates as the season goes on. It's how the game goes."
--Field Level Media
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