As requested, in the series against the Cubs, the Phillies managed to win a game before the series finale. Unfortunately, after winning the opener, they slept through the next two games, and even found a way to lose on Aaron Nola Day. (Honestly, Nola picked the right day to not be at his best, because as awful as the Phillies looked at the plate, I don’t know if even his best effort would have lifted them to victory.)
Now, the Phillies head to Miami. Much like Ponce de Leon once ventured to Florida in search of the mythical fountain of youth, the Phillies will travel to Florida in search of a series win that seems as elusive as the fabled fountain at this point.
The Last Time They Met
The last series against the Marlins was the last time anyone really felt all that great about the Phillies’ chances. The Fish came into Citizens Bank Park for four games and the Phillies won all four. Sadly, the series was not a harbinger of things to come, as the Phillies haven’t won a series since then.
What’s New with the Marlins
The Marlins were expected to be a train wreck this season, and for the most part, they have lived up (down?) to expectations. As bad as the roster was to start the season, it’s even worse now that they’ve traded away relatively capable players like Justin Bour and Brad Ziegler.
Who’s Hot on the Marlins
Known quantity Starlin Castro has swung a hot bat in recent weeks, with a .488 on-base percentage over the past two weeks. Much like he has been all season, J.T. Realmuto has been one of the Marlins’ best players in the past week, slugging a robust .824 over the last seven days.
And Who’s Not
Kyle Barraclough was given an opportunity to close games after the trade of Brad Ziegler, and he hasn’t exactly run with it. The other main option to close games has been Drew Steckenrider, but he hasn’t excelled in the role either.
Really, the entirety of the Marlins’ bullpen could probably go into this category. The Phillies haven’t shown much of an ability to come back lately, but against the Miami relievers, no game is truly out of reach.
Monday: Vince Velasquez vs. Jose Ureña
After showing some signs of fatigue a few weeks ago, there have been encouraging signs from Velasquez in his last two starts. He hasn’t pitched deep into the game - although one of those was shortened by a rain delay - but he’s produced better results. He’s done very well against the Marlins this season, only giving up one run across two starts.
August was a very unusual month for Urena. In five starts in the month, he pitched a complete game against the Nats, gave up four or more runs in three others, and threw a single pitch in another. That aligns with his performance against the Phillies this season, as one of his three starts against them was quality, and the other two were poor.
Tuesday: Jake Arrieta vs. Trevor Richards
Jake Arrieta needs to start giving the Phillies better results. He’s allowed four runs in both of his last two starts, and he only lasted three innings his last time out. He’s been inconsistent all season, but if the Phillies hope to make the playoffs, he needs to pitch like a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Rookie Trevor Richards has had a decent year, and his numbers against the Phillies are very good. In three starts, he’s 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA. However, he doesn’t often pitch deep into games, which means more innings for the bullpen, and as discussed before, the bullpen is not good.
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta vs. Dan Straily
Pivetta’s last start was encouraging. He only allowed one run in five inning while earning a win against the Cubs. He’s been inconsistent in his three starts against the Marlins in 2018, but the good news is that his most recent start was by far the best of the three.
Veteran journeyman Dan Straily has been an adequate innings eater for the Marlins in 2018. He’ll usually pitch suitably deep into any give start, but it’s questionable just how good those innings will be. He doesn’t have good career numbers against the Phillies with a 4.22 ERA in eight starts.
The Lineup, it is a‘changing
Manager Gabe Kapler is not a fan of reusing lineups.
The Phillies have used 110 different batting orders this season, excluding pitchers. The most common batting order has been used 5 times. https://t.co/F1i7G51nUQ— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 1, 2018
Remember the days of Charlie Manuel pretty much sending the same lineup out every day? The game has changed, folks.
Now, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. When Ryan Howard was in one of his horrific slumps, it was maddening to still see him slotted into the cleanup spot every day, especially if a left handed starter was on the mound.
On the other hand, I wonder if the players would benefit from a little bit of consistency. Kapler says he thinks the current offense is deeper and has more weapons than the beginning of the season, so why haven’t the results been there?
Boo This Man
Earlier, I said that in one of Jose Ureña’s starts he only threw one pitch. That’s because the pitch was thrown intentionally at Braves rookie Ronald Acuña, Jr. Now, I’m as unhappy about the emergence of Acuña as anyone, but this was still a lousy move.
Perhaps the reason I’m the most upset about it is because I came up with a funny joke about the incident that I don’t feel comfortable writing here.
The Phillies deficit in the National League East isn’t insurmountable, but they’re quickly running out of time to catch up. A series against the Marlins is as good an opportunity for wins as you can ask for, so if the Phillies can’t win at least two out of three, then you can pretty much kiss their chances goodbye.
The Phillies will win the first two games before dropping the finale, and hope will remain alive.