MIAMI -- Apparently, all Ricky Nolasco needed to return to his winning ways was a trip to the minors.
Nolasco struck out 12 in eight innings to win his fourth consecutive start, and the Florida Marlins beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0 on Sunday.Nolasco (6-6) allowed three hits and missed his career high for strikeouts by one, set Aug. 2 against Colorado. It was Nolasco's first win in his last four starts against Pittsburgh dating to last season. The Marlins won their fourth consecutive series at home."We came out and put up some early runs on the board. That made my job a lot easier," Nolasco said. "I feel like I'm getting stronger and from here just keep going and don't have any setbacks."Leo Nunez worked a scoreless ninth to finish the Marlins' second shutout of the season.Since being recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on June 7, Nolasco has won four of his past six starts. He also pitched eight innings for the second time in two starts and has pitched six or more innings in five of his last six starts.His 12 strikouts were the most by any Marlins pitcher this season."My slider today was really sharp and most of them were swinging over the top of it," Nolasco said.Nolasco allowed the first two batter of the game to reach base, but got out of the inning unscathed."Just trying to warm up was tough with the heat down there and it carried over into the first," Nolasco said. "I had to get my legs underneath me and then I felt a lot better. The first inning was definitely the toughest first inning of my life."Ross Ohlendorf (7-7) gave up five runs on nine hits over five innings and lost his third consecutive road start. The Pirates have lost six of eight."I just didn't locate my pitches well," Ohlendorf said. "I think my consistency is the main thing I have to work on. I've had some success my last few starts and I just have to go back to doing the things that are working."The Marlins took a 2-0 lead in the second. Jeremy Hermida led off with a triple. Cody Ross then was hit by a pitch. John Baker followed with a grounder to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who threw wide to the plate, allowing Hermida to score. Ross advanced to third on a single by Wes Helms, then scored when Nolasco grounded into a double play.Florida stretched its lead to 3-0 in the third. Jorge Cantu lined a two-out double down the line. He scored on Hermida's single to center.After Baker and Helms led off the fourth with consecutive singles, Chris Coghlan and Dan Uggla each hit RBI singles to give the Marlins a 5-0 lead."We got swept by them at their place so we had a little bit of a revenge factor," Hermida said. "Today was big. Ricky threw a great ballgame. He was lights-out for us."Pirates manager John Russell also noticed the improvement in Nolasco, who the Pirates beat during the series sweep in April."He had us reaching a lot. He did a real good job and was very efficient out there," Russell said.Florida's Hanley Ramirez won fan voting to be the starting shortstop for the NL in the All-Star Game and pitcher Josh Johnson was named to the roster. A starter last year, Ramirez became the first Marlins player to be voted to the All-Star team twice by the fans."What can I say? Obviously, it's an honor," Ramirez said.Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez was named as a reserve. Sanchez, who was a reserve in 2006 and 2007, is the first Pirates player to be a three-time All-Star since Jason Kendall. It will be Sanchez's third All-Star appearance in four years and he is the only player in history to play second base, third base and shortstop in an All-Star Game."It's a real honor to represent the Pirates," Sanchez said.
Florida's Ramirez was a late scratch from Sunday's starting lineup with a tight right hip flexor. Ramirez is day to day. He hopes to play Monday in San Francisco. "I'll see how it feels after a 7-hour plane ride," Ramirez said. ... Pittsburgh's Sanchez missed his third straight start with back spasms and remains day to day "It's happened before. Once we get it calmed down I'll be ready to go," Sanchez said. ... The Marlins have won five of their last seven series.