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No time to waste: Phillies vs. Marlins series preview

The Phillies can’t afford to repeat their 2019 struggles against the Marlins

Miami Marlins v Boston Red Sox
Jose Urena during an all-too-common poor outing in 2019
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It might not be a good idea. It could turn out to be the greatest disaster in the history of sports. But the powers that be in Major League Baseball want to have a 2020 season, and so a 2020 season they shall have!

This season is going to be a little different. Instead of a 162-game marathon, we’ll have a 60-game sprint. And instead of facing teams from all over the country, the Phillies will only take on teams in the two Eastern divisions. And there will be a designated hitter in all games. (Hooray!)

It might not be what we’re used to. It might not be what we want. But after a seemingly endless wait, we finally get to watch the Phillies again, so I’m not going to complain.

The Phillies will begin this uniquely structured season against a familiar opponent in the Miami Marlins. The Marlins weren’t very good in 2019, and don’t figure to be very good in 2020, but as we saw last year, that doesn’t guarantee the Phillies will have an easy time of it.

Miami Marlins

2019 record: 57-105

Manager: Don Mattingly

The last time they met

After a disappointing season, the Phillies still had a chance to finish 2019 with a winning record. All they had to do was sweep the Marlins in the final series of the year. Things looked good after they won the first two, but they were unable to finish the job in the finale. That 4-3 loss marked the final game (hopefully!) in a Phillies uniform for manager Gabe Kapler, and would also be the last time the Phillies played a regular season game for almost ten months.

Were the Marlins good in 2019?

They were not. After the Derek Jeter-fronted ownership group purged the roster of most of the good players, the Marlins were expected to be one of the worst teams in baseball. And while they were plenty bad, they weren’t the absolute worst in the major leagues. So that’s something!

Those pesky Marlins

The Marlins’ record would have been much worse had they not proven annoyingly competent whenever they played the Phillies. Against the rest of the National League East, they were hapless (4-15 against the Braves, 6-13 against the Mets, and 4-15 against the Nationals), but they somehow managed to go 10-9 against the Phils.

Thinking back, I’m not sure if the Marlins played better against the Phillies, or if the Phillies just saved their absolute worst performances for games against Miami. You may remember such incidents as “The Phillies blow a 6-1 lead” and “The Phillies blow a 7-0 lead.”

With last year’s struggles fresh in everyone’s mind, there was a slight sense of dread when the schedule said the Marlins would be the Phillies’ first opponent in 2020. But head-to-head results tend not to carry over from season to season. And the Phillies actually had winning records over the Marlins in the three seasons before last.

So don’t worry about last year. Just know that the talent level on the Phillies’ roster dwarfs that of the Marlins. And that should result in much better results this season.

Not breaking the bank

At first glance, the Marlins were aggressive this offseason. They added veteran players such Corey Dickerson, Jonathan Villar, and Brandon Kintzler, who theoretically will improve the team’s chances. If you think that means they considerably increased their payroll, then you haven’t been paying much attention to how the franchise operates.

Despite having one of the lowest payrolls in 2019, the Marlins somehow reduced the amount they’re paying players in 2020, which didn’t make the MLB Players Association very happy.

This leads me to an important question: Why does this franchise exist? Ownership rarely tries to be competitive, and based on attendance and television ratings, the fans don’t care.

Spotlight on: José Ureña

Two years ago, José Ureña was considered a rising star. Sure, there would be an intentional beanball here and there, but he showed enough positive signs that the Marlins were confident that he’d be a vital part of their starting rotation for years to come.

In 2019, those hopes dimmed. He missed some time with a back injury, and was ineffective when he was able to pitch. The Marlins tried using him as a reliever, but he was even worse in that role.

Ureña will be starting off the 2020 season in the rotation. He’ll be on the mound for the third game of the series where he’ll square off against another pitcher who had a disappointing 2019 (and 2018 and 2017) in Vince Velasquez. Oddly, despite an overall poor season, Ureña had a lot more success against the Phillies in 2019 than he had up to that point in his career.

Prediction

The Phillies will lose the opener, prompting a round of “Here we go again!” talk. But they’ll rebound to take the next two, and show us that 2020 is a brand new season.