The last time these teams played, it didn’t matter that the Phillies were in first place and the Marlins were in last; the Marlins won two out of three. If the Phillies want to hold onto their first place status, they’ll need to do better than that this time around.
The Last Time They Met
As mentioned, the Marlins won the previous series. The Phillies wanted to head into the All-Star break on a high note, and looked to be on their way when they prevailed in the opener. However, Trevor Richards outdueled Aaron Nola in the second game, and the Phillies self-destructed in the finale.
The Marlins have plodded along since the All-Star break, going 5-7. That may not sound impressive, but when you’re 17 games below the .500 mark, playing anywhere near even can be considered a victory.
Is There Anyone Left?
You might think that the Marlins would have been major sellers at the trade deadline. However, when you dismantle the team in the offseason, there’s often little to unload come the trade deadline. That didn’t stop them from trading away outfielder Cameron Maybin and reliever Brad Ziegler.
Despite the trade rumors surrounding him, somehow All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is still around. I still wouldn’t rush out to buy his shirsey though. The Marlins will probably shop him around in the offseason.
Marlins Pitchers vs. Phillies Hitters
The addition of Asdrubal Cabrera hasn’t exactly taken the Phillies’ offense to the next level. The team has averaged only two runs per game since the trade. I’m not saying that it is Cabrera’s fault that Rhys Hoskins hasn’t homered in four games, but I’m not not saying that either.
Considering the Phillies only managed seven runs in the entire three-game series the last time they faced the Marlins, is there reason to believe that they’ll do better this time around? Well, yes, actually.
The Marlins pitching staff isn’t good. They rank 15th in the National League in team ERA, they don’t strike out many batters, and yet are 14th in walks allowed. It seems very doubtful they’ll be able to have the same level of success again.
The first pitcher to face them will be Trevor Richards. Richards has been on a roll lately, allowing only one run in his last three starts, lowering his ERA by over a full run. Is this a sign that he’s emerging as a quality starter, or is regression about to bite him?
Next up is Jose Urena, who has had inconsistent results against the Phillies this season. In his last start, he allowed five runs in four innings, but only gave up one earned run in seven innings in his previous start. That is typical of Urena, as he tends to be either very good or very bad.
Saturday’s starter is Wei-Yin Chen. Chen’s 5.86 ERA indicates he is having a bad season, but he fared pretty well against the Phillies his last time out. That probably means he’s due to get lit up this time around.
The finale will be started by Dan Straily. Straily is a veteran innings-eater who can generally be counted on to not be a complete disaster. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be matched against Aaron Nola, so he’ll likely have to be a lot better than “not a complete disaster” if the Marlins want any chance at a victory.
Trading Ziegler didn’t help a Marlins bullpen that wasn’t all that great with him. Ninth inning duties have been largely handled by Kyle Barraclough, but he’s blown his last two save opportunities.
Phillies Pitchers vs. Marlins Hitters
The Marlins don’t have an impressive lineup. They rank near the bottom of the National League in almost every significant statistical category. Aside from Realmuto, there’s nobody especially threatening, unless you feel threatened by the likes of Starlin Castro or Derek Dietrich.
The first starter to face them is Nick Pivetta, who may be running out of chances to stay in the rotation. There’s talk that he may be fatigued, since he’s having trouble locating all his pitches. If he can’t shut down the Marlins, the Phillies will have to give some real thought to replacing him.
Friday’s starter is Vince Velasquez, who quietly had an excellent month of July. In three starts and one relief appearance, he allowed only two earned runs. He still doesn’t pitch deep into games, but he’s mostly avoided the meltdowns which marked his early career.
On Saturday, we get Zach Eflin who has encountered a bit of a rough patch. The team has lost his last three starts. He’s faced the Marlins once before this season, and fared well, allowing a lone earned run in six innings.
Sunday’s starter is Aaron Nola. The last time we saw the Phillies’ ace, he was dominating the Red Sox. Since the Red Sox have a good lineup, and the Marlins do not, you’d think he would do even better this time out. Does that mean we should expect a complete game shutout? (It’s possible that my expectations are getting out of hand, but then again, this is Aaron Nola.)
It’s nice to see that the Phillies’ bullpen has been a strength lately. Even Tommy Hunter has been effective recently! And with the addition of Aaron Loup, manager Gabe Kapler has one more option to match against left-handed hitters in the late innings.
Boo This Man
In the final game before the All-Star break, the Phillies appeared to be on their way to victory. Brian Anderson’s three-run home run turned the tide of that game, and we should be really annoyed by that. Anderson has made a habit of hurting the Phillies in his brief career. In 15 games, he has an .890 OPS against them.
Want to see some old footage of the Marlins’ ground crew struggling with the tarp during a rain delay?
If the Phillies really want to win the National League East, they can’t afford to slip up against the Marlins. With four games at home against a last place team, they absolutely need to win at least three out of the four games. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen. At least one of their starters will slip up, and their lineup will have a weak game as well. The Phillies will settle for a disappointing series split.