Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phils set for scuffling Fish

The Phillies open a four game set against the Florida Marlins tonight at Citizen's Bank Park.

After getting off to a strong start, it appeared the Fish would once again contend with the Phillies and Braves into dog days of summer. But the Marlins appear to be fading into the background earlier than usual; they're 1-11 in June, trailing the Phillies by 7.5 games and are just a half game ahead of the fourth place Mets.

The Phillies, meanwhile, have the best record in baseball at 40-26, despite all their offensive woes throughout the season.

This series is a tale of two clubs moving in opposite directions, and the Phillies have a chance to bury the Fish for the 2011 season. A sweep would push them 11.5 games back.

The Marlins do expect Hanley Ramirez back for this season, and they plan to bat him lead-off to replace a struggling Chris Coghlan at the top of the lineup. Coghlan is hitting just .235 with a .300 OBP. But Hanley is having a terrible year himself, batting only .210 with four home runs and a .306 OBP. It's do or die time for the Marlins mid-way through June.

Here's a look at the pitching probables:

Tonight: Chris Volstad (2-6 5.51) vs. Cole Hamels (8-2 2.58)
Despite tossing five no hit innings against the Braves in his last start, Volstad ended up dropping his fifth straight decision. He's struggled through most of the season for the Marlins. He's 2-4 with a 4.45 ERA in his career against the Phils.

Hamels has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball all year. In his last outing, he struck out nine Dodgers over eight scoreless frames. He faced Florida once this season, getting a no decision back on April 17. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

Wednesday Game 1: TBD vs. Kyle Kendrick (3-4 3.47)
Kendrick has been adequate filling in as the fifth starter. He pitched three scoreless innings against the Cubs in his last night before a rain delay swept him from the game. He's pitched one scoreless inning in relief against the Marlins this season.

Wednesday Game 2: Anibal Sanchez (6-1 3.06) vs. Roy Halladay (9-3 2.39)
Sanchez has been Florida's best starter with Josh Johnson on the shelf. The Marlins have won eight of his 13 starts, including six of the last seven. He faced the Phillies on April 17 against Hamels, also getting a no decision. He pitched six innings, surrendering two runs on six hits, four walks and eight strikeouts.

Halladay has been, once again, one of the best if not the best pitcher in the National League. He's won his last three starts and is coming off a nine strikeout, seven inning shutout. He's only faced Florida once this season, on May 10 against Josh Johnson and he was the tough luck loser. He outpitched Johnson in the game but the Phillies' offense continued to let Johnson off the hook. Halladay pitched eight innings, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.

Thursday: Javier Vazquez (3-6 7.09) vs. Cliff Lee (6-5 3.41)
Vazquez's Florida debut has not been a successful one thus far. He's struggled all season and it's been no different as of late. He's 0-2 in his last two starts, lasting a total of just 7.2 innings, allowing 13 earned runs. He's 0-1 in two starts against the Phillies this year.  The Phils beat him up on May 9, when he lasted just 4.1 innings, serving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits, one walk and no strikeouts. Back on April 15, he pitched five innings and allowed three runs in a no decision.

Lee has been terrific in June, after a first two unspectacular months of the season. He's 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks. He faced Florida once this season, picking up a no decision on May 11, allowing three runs on seven hits, no walks and four strikeouts over six innings.

I expect the Phillies to take three of four from the Marlins, which would push Florida 9.5 games behind the Phils.

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