MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins are for sale, and their players aren't helping the team's market value.
Miami mustered just three hits against Lance McCullers and three relievers Wednesday afternoon to conclude a dismal homestand with a 3-0 loss to the Houston Astros.
The Marlins were outscored 22-4 in the series and head to California last in the NL East after going 1-8 on their homestand.
"It can't get any worse than what it is," said second baseman Dee Gordon, whose errant throw led to two unearned runs . "We've just got to find a way to get some wins."
The Marlins haven't been to the playoffs since 2003, and owner Jeffrey Loria has seen enough losing and wants to sell. He's negotiating with a group that includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, and another group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of the former Republican nominee for president.
Meanwhile the Marlins keep losing, despite spring training talk of a playoff run. They're 14-25, and manager Don Mattingly said he's unsure whether the sale talk is a factor.
"It's something you know is there and looming," Mattingly said. "I don't know if it has any effect. I can't speak for guys."
They managed just three hits in six innings against McCullers , who paid tribute to the late Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and pitched like him, allowing no earned runs for the third start in a row to help Houston complete a three-game sweep.
McCullers (4-1) wore cleats with Fernandez's initials and uniform number. Their friendship began when they were high school pitchers in the Tampa area. Fernandez died in a boating accident last September.
"I know he is here in spirit," McCullers said. "And he would want me to go out there and pitch my game and in that way celebrate him and pitching. That's what I tried to focus on."
The Marlins went 10 2/3 innings without a hit over two games until J.T. Riddle singled leading off the fifth. McCullers retired the next three batters.
McCullers has allowed no earned runs in his past 20 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.65. Ken Giles pitched around a walk in the ninth for his 11th save.
Jose Altuve hit his first two triples of the year, doubled twice and had an RBI. George Springer hit a two-out, two-run single in the sixth.
The Astros (29-12) passed the quarter mark in their season with the best record in the majors. Their fourth consecutive win lifted them 17 games above .500 for the first time since 2004, and they head home after a 6-1 trip.
"It's hard not to like this trip," manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was in incredible display on how to win games."
Jose Urena (1-2), one of the few bright spots in Miami's battered rotation, lost despite limiting Houston to three runs, one earned, in 5 2/3 innings.
Gordon, trying for a forceout, made an errant nonchalant backhanded throw to second base on a routine grounder with two out in the sixth. Springer followed with a single for a 3-0 lead.
"That was a mental mistake on my part," Gordon said. "I've got to throw the ball to first. I can't let that happen. I just made a dumb play. It's my fault we lost the game."
That made it 17 defeats in the past 21 games for Miami. Mattingly said his players hang their heads after one bad play as if to say, "Here we go again."
"I think we do. That's any team though when you go through a tough stretch," Mattingly said. "But I don't know if I've ever been through one quite like this. This is extended. At some point we've just got to play better."
Houston: Following a day off, RHP Charlie Morton (5-2, 3.97) is scheduled to start Friday for the Astros when they return home to open a three-game series against Cleveland.