A .500 record used to be considered a success for the Florida Marlins. Now as the Miami Marlins, it's a disappointment.
They may be hard-pressed to move back above the break-even mark against James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays.With Hanley Ramirez possibly back in the lineup, the Marlins will try to overcome their struggles against Shields and end an eight-game skid versus the Rays on Saturday night.Though they do have two World Series titles to their credit, the Marlins (32-32) have spent much of their history as one of the thriftiest teams in baseball. That status changed dramatically in the offseason, when they mounted a free-agent spending spree coinciding with a new stadium in an effort to transform into an instant -- and consistent -- NL East contenders.They certainly haven't looked like contenders while losing nine of their last 10 games behind an anemic offense that's totaled 17 runs and compiled a .182 average during the slump.Marlins batters failed to do much of anything in the opener of this three-game Citrus Series on Friday, when a single by Donovan Solano was Miami's only hit in an 11-0 loss to the Rays (36-28)."Offense? We still have that?" manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I don't remember seeing a team struggle from the first to ninth hitter. We try. I don't know if we try too hard."Last week we had the best ballclub in baseball. This week we've got the worst club in baseball."The Marlins have played like cellar dwellers for some time against Tampa Bay, batting .169 at the plate with two homers and 13 runs during their eight straight losses in this series.Showing improvement against Shields (7-4, 4.06 ERA) will be a tall order since the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.36 ERA in his last four appearances -- three starts -- versus the Marlins. He yielded one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 4-2 victory at Miami on Sunday.Shields, though, is 0-2 with a 5.12 ERA in his last three starts at home.Miami may get a lift if Hanley Ramirez is back after he was scratched from the lineup for the series opener after a ball hit him in the nose during batting practice. Solano took his place at third base."He's fine," Guillen said of Ramirez. "He's got something slight, a little bit broke. The doctor says he can play."Ramirez has three hits in his last two games shaking out of a 1-for-22 slump over the previous seven. However, he is 2 for 22 with seven strikeouts in his last seven games against the Rays.Giving the ball to Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 3.40) may not inspire much confidence in the Marlins, either. He's lost five of his last six starts with a 4.85 ERA in that span.The right-hander took the loss opposite Shields on Sunday, allowing four runs in six innings..