(Sports Network) - Though the Marlins are being designated as the home team for this three-game series in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is the Mets who have a number of players that are set to take the field in their native country.
As Major League Baseball continues to expand its global reach, Florida and New York will do battle tonight at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which will host a major league regular-season game for the first time since 2004.
While the majors are no stranger to Puerto Rico, this set marks the first time the country will host a regular-season game since the Montreal Expos played part of their home schedule there in 2003 and 2004. Both the Mets and Marlins took on the Expos during that time and Hiram Bithorn Stadium has since played host to a number of World Baseball Classic games as well as some major league spring training contests.
Though the Marlins currently have no Puerto Rican-born players on their active roster, they will likely have some support given that Edwin Rodriguez became the first Puerto Rican-born manager in league history when he took over for a fired Fredi Gonzalez on an interim basis last week.
Meanwhile, this series marks a trip home for a handful of Mets players, including Angel Pagan, Alex Cora, Jesus Feliciano and Pedro Feliciano. A fifth native son, Carlos Beltran, won't make the trip as he is still recovering from right knee surgery.
Pagan hasn't played since Wednesday due to right rib cage ailment, but he is expected to be back in center field for this contest.
"This is a great opportunity to represent Puerto Rico and the Mets organization," Pagan told the Mets' official website prior to this past weekend. "I'm looking forward to it. The people in Puerto Rico are looking forward to it. It's going to be great for our country."
The presence of Pagan and his fellow countrymen could give the Mets plenty of support in the stands despite this being a road game. New York will take any advantage it can get as it is now just a half-game back of Atlanta for first place in the National League East following Sunday's 6-0 victory over Minnesota.
After getting shutout by the Twins by the same score on Saturday, Jon Niese hurled six-plus scoreless innings, while Jeff Francoeur, David Wright and Ike Davis also hit home runs in helping the Mets win for the fourth time in six games and wrap interleague play with a club-record 13-5 mark.
R.A. Dickey gets a chance to pitch the Mets into first place this evening and extend his career-best six-start winning streak in the process. The knuckleballer has allowed more than two runs in just two of his seven starts with New York, going 6-0 with a 2.33 earned run average.
The 35-year-old righty hurled a season-high eight scoreless innings on Wednesday versus the Tigers, holding them to four hits and two walks.
Dickey beat the Marlins on June 4, allowing three runs over 6 1/3 innings and improving to 2-1 against them with a 6.43 ERA in four games, including two starts.
Florida is coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Padres and it managed just three runs in the series. Sunday's 4-2 setback was the Marlins' fourth in a row, tying a season high.
Starter Anibal Sanchez allowed just two runs -- one earned -- in six-plus innings, but the bullpen yielded a deciding two-run homer in the eighth inning.
"I think today's game was lost because we didn't score enough runs, not because we didn't pitch well enough," said Chris Coghlan on Florida's website. "I know people want to blame it on the bullpen, but we didn't score enough."
That isn't good news for starter Ricky Nolasco, who is 1-0 in three starts versus the Mets this year despite a 4.00 ERA and 4-6 against them lifetime with a 5.58 ERA in 18 games, 16 starts.
The right-hander snapped a two-start slide on Wednesday versus the Orioles despite allowing four runs on eight hits over seven innings. He also struck out eight in the 7-5 triumph that improved him to 6-6 with a 4.92 ERA this season.
Wright is 4-for-8 against the 27-year-old Nolasco this year with a pair of RBI and is a career .386 (17-for-44) batter against him.
The Marlins have won six of 10 versus the Mets this year, but New York notched a three-game sweep when the clubs last met in the Big Apple from June 4-6.