I know, I know: You’re dreading this series against the Marlins. Based on how the Phillies-Marlins rivalry has gone since the start of 2019, you’re more than a little wary that this seven game set is going to go poorly for the Phillies, and sabotage their chances at the playoffs.
But fear not: the past has no bearing on this upcoming series. Despite the unfortunate recent history between the teams, and the Marlins’ better than expected play in 2020, the Phillies are the better team and the results will reflect that.
The last time they met
The last time they should have met, they didn’t actually meet because the Marlins got themselves infected with COVID-19. As as result, we have an ultra-rare seven game series on our hands. The last time they actually met was the first weekend of the season, when the Marlins took two out of three.
After having a bunch of games postponed due to the aforementioned COVID infections, the Marlins have played surprisingly well. Most had them pegged for another last place finish, but they are in third place at 19-19. This somehow prompted them to become buyers at the trade deadline, picking up Starling Marte. Not that Marte is a huge difference maker or anything, but we’ve gotten so used to seeing the Marlins jettison veteran players that it is somewhat jarring to see them actually bring one aboard.
Third place, really?
I’m surprised by it myself. Last year, the Marlins sucked against everyone who wasn’t the Phillies, but this season, they’ve managed to not suck against a few other teams as well. They’ve got winning records against the Braves and Mets which has actually proven beneficial for the Phillies.
Are they good?
They’re not good on offense, that’s for sure. Among National League teams, they rank 12th in runs scored, 12th in OPS, and 13th in home runs. There are very few tough outs in the lineup, unless you’re more impressed with the likes of Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson than I am.
If the Marlins thought that Marte was going to lift them to new heights, that hasn’t panned out thus far. Marte has a .636 OPS since his arrival.
What about the pitching?
A year after having one of the worst pitching staffs in the leagues, the Marlins have been surprisingly stingy about giving up runs this year. Then again, with two doubleheaders scheduled this week, we’re going to get a full test of just how deep their staff is. They may have to give starts to lesser lights like Jose Urena, and the next guy I’ll talk about...
Spotlight on: Jordan Yamamoto
Remember how I said the Marlins had done well against the Braves this season? That wasn’t the case on Wednesday night when the Marlins gave up 29 runs. A disaster of that magnitude can’t be pinned down on just one person, but Jordan Yamamoto certainly had a big hand in it.
As a rookie in 2019, Yamamoto made 15 starts, and was okay for the most part. In 2020, he’s been far from okay. He made three starts earlier in the season, and pitched increasingly worse in each of them.
On Wednesday night, with starter Pablo Lopez knocked out of the game early, the Marlins put in Yamamoto to hopefully calm things down and soak up some innings. It did not go well for the young righty.
Jordan Yamamoto became just the third reliever in baseball history (since 1901) to pitch fewer than three innings and allow at least 13 runs.— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) September 10, 2020
Vin Mazzaro (5/16/2011) and Hugh Canavan (7/6/1918) are the others.
In recent seasons, the Phillies seemed prone to facing struggling guys like Yamamoto and making them look surprisingly competent. But the Phillies have largely avoided incidents like that in 2020, so hopefully they do get a crack at him.
Are we going to talk about him?
Fine. Let’s get it over with. Let’s talk about Sixto Sanchez. The former Phillies pitching prospect has arrived in the majors and has looked good.
Sixto Sánchez, Absolute Filth.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 9, 2020
91mph Slider Sword.
90mph Changeup Sword.
99mph Fastball...K Pose. pic.twitter.com/VoqNY354gr
Before you panic, remember that the Phillies didn’t just hand Sanchez to the Marlins. They got J.T. Realmuto in the trade, and if you want to trade for the #BCIB, you’re going to have to give up something of value. So even if Sanchez continues to look as good as he has, the Phillies didn’t exactly lose this trade. (That said, if Realmuto leaves as a free agent, it isn’t a great look.)
Realmuto aside, it would be nice if Sanchez didn’t continue to look as good as he has, especially since they’ll be seeing him a lot over the next few seasons. But take solace, Phillies fans: Maybe they can get him back in a few years when he gets close to arbitration, and Marlins ownership decides to do one of their periodic salary dumps.
As for the immediate future, Sanchez is scheduled to start a game in this series. Pessimistic Phillies fans expect him to throw a gem, but I’m going to be optimistic about this one, and predict that Sanchez struggles a bit. After all, if there’s any team that would have an idea about how to approach the young pitcher, it would be the one that originally signed and developed him.
The Marlins’ pitching has improved this season, but can it really hold up to the Phillies’ relentless lineup? And while the Phillies’ bullpen has caused its share of angst this season, it should be able to mostly hold up against the Marlins’ punchless offense. Whatever spell the Marlins had over the Phillies is finally broken, and the Phillies will win five out of the seven games.