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Marlins Look To Continue Hot Spell

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MIAMI (AP) -- With a dazzling young core and some veteran leadership, the Miami Marlins' current hot spell is a realization of the success many envisioned heading into 2015.

An ongoing influx of offense can help the Marlins further distance themselves from last place in the NL East, a spot now owned by the offensively challenged Philadelphia Phillies as they head to Miami on Friday night.

Miami (10-12) has won seven of eight to rebound from a rough start to the season that included three losing streaks of three or more games. The Marlins have scored 5.5 runs per game over the hot stretch, up from 3.79 through April 21.

Giancarlo Stanton and Adeiny Hechavarria have paced that effort with nine RBIs and eight runs apiece over the past eight games, while Stanton has three home runs and Hechavarria is 13 for 29 (.448).

This sort of production was expected of Stanton, as evidenced by his 13-year, $325 million contract, but Hechavarria had primarily been known as a defensive standout prior to this offensive outburst.

Hechavarria hit .251 over the past two seasons while totaling 76 RBIs, but he's on pace for 118 this year and is batting .321.

"You're talking about your seven- or eight-hole guy getting better," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB's official website. "It makes you have a deeper lineup, which ultimately will help you score more runs and win more games."

The 26-year-old is among Miami's large contingent of budding stars along with the 25-year-old Stanton. Dee Gordon (27) is hitting .409 and on pace for 58 stolen bases, Marcell Ozuna (24) is hitting .342 in his last 11 games and J.T. Realmuto (24) - Miami's No. 2 rated prospect according to MLB - has assumed full-time catching duties. Christian Yelich (23) remains sidelined with a lower back strain.

On the elder side, the Marlins have enjoyed solid production from 41-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who hit his first home run in Wednesday's 7-3 win over the New York Mets.

"I just think he's enjoying this atmosphere," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's been great for our guys to see how much fun he has continuing to play the game and how he competes and how he prepares and how he is in huge situations."

The Phillies (8-15) dropped two of three against the Marlins from April 21-23 and enter Friday's contest following three straight losses in St. Louis. They've scored more than three runs only three times in their last nine games and rank last in the majors with 2.74 runs per game.

Chase Utley, who was rested Thursday as the Phillies lost 9-3 to the Cardinals, is batting .114 and has three hits in his last 45 at-bats. Jeff Francoeur is in an 0-for-16 drought.

Philadelphia was held to one run in each loss of the Marlins series after winning the opener 7-3.

Jerome Williams (2-1, 3.80 ERA) won that day by allowing three runs - two earned - in six innings, and he'll look to win a third straight start Friday. He defeated Atlanta with 6 2-3 innings of three-run ball Sunday.

Williams will oppose Tom Koehler (2-2, 4.50), looking to carry momentum from a strong start Saturday, when he pitched 7 1-3 innings in an 8-0 win over Washington. Koehler last faced the Phillies in 2014, going 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts.

The Marlins starting staff has surrendered 10 earned runs in its last 50 2-3 innings.

Philadelphia's Ben Revere is 8 for 16 against Koehler in his career, and Utley is 5 for 13 with two doubles.

Odubel Herrera continues to be a bright spot in the Phillies lineup. The 23-year-old rookie is batting .412 with five RBIs in his last four games.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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