The Phillies were able to take the first 2 games of the series against the Blue Jays in comeback fashion. Unfortunately the Blue Jays returned the favor yesterday, as they scored 7 unanswered runs to win the game 7-4. It was hard fought series for the Phightin’s and yesterday marked the end of their interleague schedule. With a 9-6 record, they were able to finish interleague play over .500 for the 2nd consecutive year. The Phillies have spent their Independence Day in Miami and they start a 3 game series with the Marlins tonight. They will look to pounce on a reeling Marlins team while they are down and take advantage of team struggling to find its identity.
This Phillies team has been the mark of consistency so far this season. This isn’t to say that they haven’t had their fair share of struggles at the plate, but they have just steadily continued to win series after series. With the starters they send to mound, it makes a prolonged losing streak a very difficult feat. The Phightin’s now have a 53-32 record and are still 4 games north of the Braves for the lead in the division.
Meet the Marlins
The Marlins went into the month of June just a few games behind the Phillies in the division race and were looking like a team that would contend for the wild card spot. Then something went wrong, whether it was they gave up on their former manager or they were just simply playing over their heads for the first few months. That is something we will never know. But the month of June was not nice to the Fish. They ended the month with just 3 wins, that is 2 fewer wins than Cliff Lee had by himself during the month. But they have been able to turn things around since the calendar turned to July; they are on a 2 game winning streak and have won 5 of their last 10 games. The Fish are currently 38-46 and are 14.5 games behind the Phillies in the division.
“We’re playing with a lot more energy,” Marlins Manager Jack McKeon said. “The guys are feeling happy and they’re enjoying themselves, having fun and playing relaxed. Everybody’s filling in for each other. That might be the turning point of the season, who knows?”
Despite the team’s young talent of Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton, the Marlins lineup has really underachieved. A major reason for this is due to the inconsistency and borderline terrible play from their “best” player SS Hanley Ramirez. He is batting just .227 with a 7 homeruns and 29 RBI’s on the season. The marlins rank 25th in baseball in runs scored, 24th in batting average and 19th in homeruns. Their pitching staff was dealt a huge blow with the loss of Josh Johnson, but they have still been decent even without their ace. They are 15th in baseball in ERA but their starters are just 24th in quality starts.
Monday July 4, 6:10: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco
Vance Worley pitched great on Wednesday night against one of the most potent lineups in the majors. He stared down hitters like Pedroia, Gonzalez and Ortiz and pitched like a veteran. He went 7 innings and only surrendered 1 run on five hits against a Boston lineup that suddenly didn’t look that powerful. Worley has given up just 2 runs in 18 innings in his 3 starts since rejoining the rotation. He is now 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP so far this season. Vance has only faced the Marlins twice (1 start); in those games he is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. He pitched in Sun Life Stadium earlier this season for the first time; he came in out of the bullpen in relief of Joe Blanton. He pitched 3 innings and gave up 1 run on 2 hits. Current Marlins hitters are a combined 8-38 (.211) while facing Kendrick during their careers.
The Fish will send right hander Ricky Nolasco to the hill to oppose Worley later today. He has struggled throughout most of the season but is coming off of his best start of the year. Nolasco pitched a complete game shutout against the light hitting Oakland A’s last Wednesday. Even after the gem, he is still just 5-4 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.32 WHIP through 17 starts this season. He has been a disappointment for the Florida this year; it seems the 28 year old righty may never develop in to a front line pitcher. Nolasco has pitched in 13 career games (10 starts) against the Phillies. In those games he is 6-3 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He has already faced the Phillies in one start this season. In a early May start, he gave up just 1 earned run but he received a no decision due to a blown save by Leo Nunez. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 39-171 (.228) while facing Nolasco during their careers.
Tuesday July 5, 7:10: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Chris Volstad
There was a time where we weren’t sure if Hamels would be able to start this game but those fears were quickly subdued. In the 4th inning of Thursday’s game against the Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez lined a ball off of Hamels non-throwing hand. He stayed in the game to retire the next batter but they decided to remove him from the game for precautionary reasons. The x-rays on his hand were negative and the team announced that he was set to start after his bullpen session before yesterday’s game. We also learned yesterday that Hamels, Halladay and Lee were selected to participate in next week’s all-star game in Arizona. The recently selected all-star is now 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP so far this season. He has made 17 starts against the Fish during his career, in those games he is 5-7 with a 3.50 ERA. Seven of those starts came in Sun Life Stadium, in those games he is 1-2 with a 3.43 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 48-203 (.236) while facing Kendrick during their careers.
Chris Volstad has been had a roller coaster ride for a season for far. In his last 3 starts, he gave up just 3 earned runs. But in the previous 4 starts, he gave up a whopping 21 earned runs! The really bad pitcher showed up the when he faced the Phillies at The Bank in early June, he surrendered 8 runs in his 5.2 innings of work on route to a 9-1 Phillies win. Volstad is now 4-7 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in his 16 starts this season. So far this season, he has had more problems when pitching in front of his home town fan (yes one fan). In 9 home starts he is just 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA. The 6-8 righty has made 11 previous starts against the Phillies during his career, in those games he is just 2-4 with a 5.22 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 68-185 (.368) while facing Volstad during their careers.
Wednesday July 6, 7:10: RHP Kyle Kendrick vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez
Kendrick did what he was asked to do in his start Friday on Canada Day. He saved the bullpen by going 7 innings and kept the team close enough to make a comeback in the 9th. He did make a huge mistake to Baustista in the 7th, but it’s hard to criticize your 7th starter for not making the pitch against one of the game’s best hitters. Kendrick is now 4-4- with 3.81 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 20 games (6 starts) this season. He was brilliant in his last start against the Marlins a few weeks ago; he went 7 innings and only gave up 1 run on 5 hits. Kendrick has pitched 14 games (9 games) against the Marlins during his career, in those games he is 6-2 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 34-116 (.293) while facing Kendrick during their careers.
When the Marlins lost Josh Johnson in the middle of May, they thought it would just be a few weeks. Now those weeks have turned in to months and there is still doubt if he will return this season. They have needed a pitcher to step up and Anibal Sanchez has done just that. He has been great but he is coming off his worst start of the season. In his start on Friday against the Rangers, Sanchez lasted just 3.2 innings and gave up 7 runs on 7 hits. But even with the poor start, he has still pitched very well so far this season. In his 17 starts, he is 6-2 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Sanchez has started 13 previous games against the Phils, in those games he is just 3-7 with a 5.35 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 59-207 (.285) while facing Volstad during their careers.
We are now getting into the hottest parts of the season and as Charlie says, “It’s Hittin Season.” even if they acquire another bat, the Phillies need their current bats to step up their game. The next 6 games could go a long way in giving them a little breathing room during the 2nd half of the season. It is important that they can take care of business in Florida before they start a big series with the Braves this weekend. They only have 1 of their big 3 pitching in this series and it will be hard for them to sweep. I predict the Phillies will take two of the three games before they head home to take on ATL.