The first place Phillies will wrap up the unofficial first half of the season with a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins. This seems like an ideal way to end pre-All-Star play, because the Marlins have the worst record in the National League.
Look at it this way: If someone told you that you needed to bet on a baseball game, and you knew that a first place team was playing a last place team, wouldn’t you want to bet on the first place team? Of course you would. And since sports gambling is now legal all throughout the country, there’s really no reason why you can’t bet on the Phillies. (Unless you have a gambling problem. In that case, call the problem gambling helpline at 1-800-522-4700.)
I realize that the Phillies haven’t consistently taken care of the weaker teams on the schedule, and they’re only 3-3 against the Marlins this season. But those games were months ago! The Phillies had not yet ascended to their current first place status. This time around, I think we can feel more confident that the Phillies will take care of business.
The Last Time They Met
When the teams played in Miami in early May, the Marlins captured the first two games of the series. A sweep at the hands of the Marlins would have been deflating, but fortunately, the Phillies had Aaron Nola on the mound in the finale. As usual, Nola took care of business as the Phillies won 6-0.
And Since Then?
Preseason predictions were not kind to the Marlins, and the team has largely lived up to those low expectations. They sit in last place in the National League East (despite actually having more wins than the Mets), 14.5 games behind the division leaders (which just happens to be the Phillies).
I’d say this would be a prime opportunity for the Phillies to bury the Marlins, but come on; After Derek Jeter and the rest of the team’s ownership group dismantled the roster in the offseason, they were pretty much buried on Opening Day.
Marlins Pitching vs. Phillies Offense
Despite being shut out on Wednesday night, the Phillies rank second in the National League in runs scored over the past week. They’re likely to maintain that high ranking over the next few days as the Marlins pitching staff is not the finest group ever assembled. They have the worst ERA in the National League, and unlike the Mets, they won’t be able to send a Cy Young Award candidate out there to stop the bleeding.
Friday’s starter will be Wei-Yin Chen. There was a time when Chen was a serviceable major league pitcher, but that time is not 2018. Chen is coming off a start in which he allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings, and the scariest thing about that is that it wasn’t his worst start of the season. (That would be a three inning/nine run debacle against the Cubs)
Saturday’s starter is Trevor Richards. Richards hasn’t been as bad as Chen (although that isn’t saying much), but he’s still carrying a hefty 5.24 ERA, mostly because he never seems to pitch deep into games. He faced the Phillies once this season and gave up six hits and three walks in only four innings. Annoyingly, the Marlins won that game.
The finale will go to Jose Urena, who is the “ace” of the Marlins’ staff. He’s not a good pitcher by any means, but compared to the rest of the rotation, he looks like Max Scherzer. He faced the Phillies in May, and actually pitched pretty well, limiting them to one run in seven innings. He had the misfortune of pitching against Aaron Nola, and having a bullpen that allowed four runs after he left.
Overall, the Marlins bullpen is also weak, but there are a couple of guys who aren’t too horrible. Kyle Barraclough has been solid and seems to handle most of the rare save opportunities that come around. Rookie Drew Steckenrider was having a good season until last week when he twice gave up a lead in the late innings. Aside from those guys, if the Phillies can knock the starters out early - and by all means, they should be able to do that - they can pad their numbers against the Marlins’ relievers.
Phillies Pitching vs. Marlins Hitters
It shouldn’t be shocking that after the team traded its best hitters from 2017, this year’s edition has struggled to score runs. Now that Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton are gone, is there anyone worth worrying about?
Catcher J.T. Realmuto has emerged as a star (which naturally means that he’s the subject of trade rumors), and Justin Bour can hit the occasional home run. There are also a couple of other guys who were once All-Stars in Martin Prado and Starlin Castro. As for the rest of the lineup, it mostly consists of guys who probably wouldn’t be regulars on a team with management that actually cared about wins and losses instead of the bottom line.
The first Phillie starter to face these guys is Jake Arrieta, who is coming off an excellent start. He seems to have put his struggles from June comfortably behind him. Surprisingly, he’s fared poorly against the Marlins this season, with a 9.39 ERA in two starts. Next up is Aaron Nola, and I don’t think much really needs to be said about his greatness this season.
Zach Eflin will pitch the finale. Zach’s personal six-game winning streak ended his last time out, although he didn’t pitch that poorly. It would be nice to see him deliver a strong start to end a surprisingly strong first half.
As for the bullpen, if you exclude Tommy Hunter - and we’d all love to do that - they’ve been pretty good lately. Pat Neshek has picked up where he left off, and Adam Morgan has even been effective in a strict LOOGY role lately.
Boo This Man
Martin Prado has long been a thorn in the Phillies’ side. He’s got a career .843 OPS against them, and the 17 home runs he’s hit against Phillies’ pitching is by far the most he has against any opponent.
That said, would you like to see a video of Prado screwing up against the Phillies?
Florida: Not Meant For Major League Baseball
A visit to Marlins Park wouldn’t be complete without mention of how stupid it was to spend public money on a new stadium in Miami. I mean, who could have predicted that building an expensive stadium in Miami would have turned out to be a disaster? Everyone!
The theory - at least the theory according to people who were absolutely going to profit from a new stadium - was that a new stadium would revitalize interest in baseball in South Florida. Fans would pack the new stadium and it would boost the economy and definitely not be a burden on the taxpayers. Would you like to guess where the Marlins rank in attendance this season?
On the bright side, if any Phillies fans feel like taking a jaunt down to Miami this weekend, there’s a good chance that prime seats will still be available!
In defense of Marlins’ fans, they have consistently been saddled with bad ownership. They’ve gone from Jeffrey Loria - who somehow managed to ruin baseball in two cities - to Derek Jeter and company. Those guys welcomed themselves to the city by dismantling the team, which apparently came as a massive surprise to commissioner Rob Manfred.
Here’s a better idea: Contract both Florida teams or move them to a city that would actually support them. Ideally, the teams’ owners would be forced pay to build the stadiums in those new cities, but we all know that’s not going to happen.
The Phillies have a massive pitching advantage on Friday and Saturday, so I think they win those games. On Sunday, I have a suspicion that they might have one eye on the upcoming All-Star break. As a result, their play might get a bit sloppy, allowing the Marlins to capture the final game.