All of the talk about the success of the first-place Florida Marlins may have distracted the young team. It certainly got the attention of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds look to complete a four-game sweep of the suddenly slumping Marlins for the first time in nearly nine years on Thursday when the clubs square off at Great American Ball Park.Florida (23-17) was one of the biggest stories in baseball during a seven-game win streak from May 4-11 that gave the Marlins the best record in the major leagues in spite of their youth and their major league-low payroll."For us, it's the fun part because nobody expects us to be where we're at right now," Marlins outfielder Luis Gonzalez said before Wednesday's game.Though the Marlins are still in first place in the NL East, their strong start has lost some of its luster with three straight losses to the Reds (18-23).Cincinnati outlasted Florida 8-7 in the series opener Monday, held on for a 5-3 victory Tuesday, and got a 10th-inning, walk-off single from Paul Janish in his major-league debut in Wednesday night's 7-6 win."Hopefully, it will only get better, but that's hard to imagine," said the 25-year-old shortstop, who was called up earlier in the day to fill in for injured Jeff Keppinger, who's out four-to-six weeks with a broken left kneecap.Wednesday's win was the Reds' sixth straight overall against the Marlins. They swept a three-game series against them Aug. 24-26 of last season, and are in position for their first four-game sweep of Florida since Sept. 10-13, 1999.The Marlins, though, aren't getting too broken up about their sudden slump."When things are going good, you don't take things for granted, you've got to keep going and try to ride those streaks out as long as you can," Gonzalez said. "And when you're in a losing streak or you're not swinging the bat well, you try to turn it around as quick as you can. I think that makes the difference between a good team and an average team."The Marlins hope Andrew Miller (3-2, 6.52 ERA) can get them back in the win column. Miller, acquired in the offseason trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, struggled early in the year, but is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his last four starts. The left-hander struck out a season-high seven in seven innings -- his longest outing of the season -- in an 11-0 win at Washington on Saturday."I threw a lot of pitches per hitter, but keeping the hits down and keeping the walks down allowed me to go deeper into the game," Miller told the Marlins' official Web site. "I hope that I can mix that and be more aggressive with hitters, and I will be even better."Miller, making his first career appearance against the Reds, will match up against Matt Belisle (1-3, 7.45), who gave up six runs in five innings of a 12-6 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday.The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.81 ERA in seven career games -- four starts -- against the Marlins.