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Marlins brace for Angels, hot Shoemaker

MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins (17-30) will run into a hot pitcher in Sunday's series finale against the Los Angeles Angels (26-26).

Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (4-2) has won three straight starts, beating the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

In those starts, Shoemaker, 30, allowed three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings and pitched at least six innings in each of those appearances.

Shoemaker has seen his ERA drop from 5.21 to 3.97 during the run.

Shoemaker has a better win-loss record at home but a superior ERA on the road. Here is the breakdown: 3-1, 5.20 ERA in five starts at home and 1-1, 2.79 in five road outings.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia hopes Shoemaker continues his hot streak and keeps the rotation moving in the right direction. Since April 15, the Angels lead the American League with a 3.65 ERA.

"We've pitched well, considering a lot of guys are not in roles they anticipated," Scioscia said. "They are either banged up or not doing what we thought."

Miami will counter with right-hander Jose Urena (2-2, 3.08 ERA) as it tries to win the rubber game of the series.

Urena has made four starts with the Marlins this season, and the results have been puzzling. In his first three starts, he averaged just shy of six innings and allowed a total of three earned runs -- one per appearance.

But last week at the Oakland Athletics, Urena had his poorest start, allowing six runs in five innings but earned the victory as the Marlins won 11-9.

Urena is 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA in five home games and 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in five road contests. Surprisingly, he has been getting hit by right-handed batters (.316 batting average, .916 OPS) but has been dominant vs. lefties (.154, .482).

If it gets into a bullpen battle, the Marlins are at least encouraged that set-up man David Phelps, who had struggled earlier this year, seems to have turned his season around.

In his past 14 games over 14 2/3 innigns, Phelps has not allowed a run.

Besides the pitchers, Sunday's series finale could come down to each team's superstar slugger. Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton hit a 460-foot homer Friday, and Mike Trout jacked one 443 feet Saturday.

Meanwhile, Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who misplayed two balls into doubles on Friday but stole a would-be home run from Andrelton Simmons on Saturday, said the team is trying to put more focus on defense.

"I tried to be more aggressive tonight," Ozuna said. "I tried to concentrate a bit more on my defense.

"On Friday, I made a mistake because I was a little scared to hit the wall. Tonight, I just told myself, 'Let's go play hard' and do everything to help my teammates."

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