(Photo credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports)
The Miami Marlins acquired third baseman Jake Burger at the trade deadline in hopes of bettering their chances of qualifying for the playoffs for only the second time since winning the World Series in 2003.
He's come through during their nine-game homestand that will conclude on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers, driving in 10 runs in the past eight games.
Those contributions have helped the Marlins go 5-3 on the homestand and have kept them within one game of the Chicago Cubs for the final wild-card spot in the National League.
"Just trying to slow down the game a little and not trying to do too much," said Burger, who credits extra time in the batting cage with igniting the hot streak. "The last road trip, I tried to do too much."
Burger came up big in the Marlins' 5-4 win against the Brewers on Saturday, hitting a three-run homer in the first inning and later drawing a leadoff walk in the eighth, which led to the go-ahead run. He has 34 homers and 79 RBIs for the season.
"This is kind of a do-or-die moment for us," Burger said. "Hopefully, we get on a roll now. It's a good ballclub over there, so we'll take them any way we can."
Burger said the key to winning the rubber game on Sunday is for the Marlins (80-75) to stay relaxed and confident.
"Just like (Saturday)," he said. "There's no quit in this dugout, no matter what. Just keep that mindset going and take it an inning at a time."
Right-hander Edward Cabrera is scheduled to start for the Marlins on Sunday, and they need him to step up down the stretch.
Cabrera (6-7, 4.35 ERA) has pitched well lately, owning a 1.93 ERA in three appearances covering 14 innings this month.
He made his only two relief appearances of the season on Sept. 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and six days later against the Brewers, then returned to a starting role last Monday against the New York Mets and held them to one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings of his team's 2-1 loss.
Cabrera has faced the Brewers twice in his career, including one start, and is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
The Brewers (88-67) plan to counter with veteran right-hander Freddy Peralta.
Peralta (12-9, 3.71 ERA) is 6-1 in his past 10 starts with a 1.96 ERA. He most recently limited the St. Louis Cardinals to one run and four hits in six innings, but took the loss in a 1-0 defeat on Monday.
Peralta is 3-1 in seven career appearances against Miami, including four starts, with a 4.07 ERA.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said after Saturday's loss that he wasn't concerned with the recent performances by set-up reliever Joel Payamps, who was tagged for the loss after walking Burger to lead off the eighth with the score tied. Burger's pinch runner, Garrett Hampson, scored the winning run.
Payamps has given up a run in three of his past four appearances, bumping his ERA from 2.35 to 2.62.
"It's not been a loud-contact issue," Counsell said. "It's just been getting ahead of a hitter, pounding a pitch, falling behind a hitter with a walk. The ball in play has not been overly concerning, really."
--Field Level Media