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Series preview: Cardinals vs. Marlins

The Cardinals make like Lebron James and take their talents to Miami for a three-game set with the floundering Florida Marlins.

The Fish are 53-53 but, as they tread water, the teams around them have swum right by. Florida finds itself in fourth place, 7 1/2 games behind Atlanta. While the Cardinals struggle on the road to the tune of a 22-30 record, the Marlins are no powerhouse at whatever it is they call Joe Robbie-Pro Player-Dolphins-Underoos stadium these days. They're 28-27 in the mostly empty, teal colored confines.

The Florida offense has gone south lately. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez managed only one extra base hit in the entire month of July and he's hitting .279 with 14 homers on the year. Second baseman Dan Uggla, the target of many overtures at the trade deadline, is hitting .280 with 24 homers and 66 RBIs.

The Cardinals slumbering lumber seems to have finally started to wake up. Albert Pujols is 11-for-23 (.478) since July 31. Yadier Molina, who couldn't do a thing before the All-Star break, is batting 8-for-21 (.381) in his last five games.

Pitching matchups:

Jeff Suppan
(1-6, 5.72) gets another start for the Cardinals Friday after pitching his best game of the season and earning his first and only victory the last time out against the Pirates. He'll face Florida's Ricky Nolasco (12-7, 4.28). Suppan has only enjoyed more than two runs of support twice in his last seven starts. Nolasco has earned a victory in seven of his last eight starts. Last time out he held the Padres to three runs on five hits in 8 1/3 innings pitched.

In the middle game on Saturday, Adam Wainwright (15-6, 2.19) takes on Josh Johnson (10-4, 1.96). Seriously, how often does a guy with a 2.19 ERA in August go into a game with a guy whose ERA is lower? This should be a titanic pitching matchup. But as good as Johnson has been, he hasn't earned a win since July 17 against Washington. He's got two no decisions and a loss in his last three starts. Wainwright was roughed up for the only time this season July 27 by the Mets. But he got back in the groove Aug. 2 against the Pirates with one run allowed on six hits over seven innings.

Starters for the finale haven't been officially announced yet.