In the second installment of our Series of the Week feature, we will be taking a look at the matchup between National League East foes; the five-time defending division champion Phillies will bring their banged up offense home to Citizens Bank Park for the first time in 2012 to face the revamped Miami Marlins. The teams will square off against each other this afternoon, take tomorrow off, and then play two night games Wednesday and Thursday before they part ways.
After all the hype that the Marlins created over the offseason with their uncharacteristic spending spree, they’re showing that it will take more than talk to play well as a team. The pitching hasn’t been overly terrible, but Miami has had a big problem getting people on base and putting runs on the board, something that no one was concerned with throughout the spring. On the other hand, the Phillies are doing what they always do, pitching lights out, but their offense is atrocious. Even though their offense is depleted with the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, they’re finding a way to get the job done.
How they’re performing right now:
Thankfully for the Marlins, they will not be coming into this series winless since they were able to break into the win column for the
first time in 2012 against the Reds on Saturday afternoon. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been struggling collectively as a team. The offense has been the biggest problem; with bringing in Jose Reyes to ignite the top of the line-up and Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of everything, Miami is expected to be a solid squad at the plate…not so much through this first weekend. Their .226 team batting average ranks 16th in the MLB, a .273 on-base% is 20th in the league, and the .368 slug% is 18th best in the Major Leagues. You couple that with the fifth-most strikeouts in the league (30), and it’s easy to see why they’re averaging 3.5 runs per game. Their team ERA of 4.46 is 24th in league, but we all know that when the ERA is higher than the runs scored per game, that’s not good. Then, the 1.37 team WHIP (22nd in MLB) shows that the pitching staff is still trying to find their bearings.
For the Phillies, their offense has been struggling just as much as Miami, but their pitching has really picked up the slack. Philly’s .204 team batting average is 21st in the league, and their .269 on-base% and .255 slug% is alarmingly low for a team that used to always be known for their line-up. In addition to that, their six runs scored is tied for second-to-last in the MLB. How have the Phillies been able to stay out of the loss column altogether this early in the year? Their pitching is once again, tops in the league. Their 1.65 team ERA is third in the league and their 0.88 WHIP is second in the MLB. Regardless of their stellar pitching, Philadelphia is coming off a series loss to the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates.
Probable pitching match-ups:
Like I said in last week’s Series of the Week, the Phillies have one of the best pitching rotations in all of Major League Baseball. Thankfully for the Marlin offense, who has had some early struggles, they miss Cliff Lee in this series, but have to deal with the team’s other two aces. However, Miami has a strong pitching staff as well, with their three best pitchers taking the mound in Philadelphia. The pitching match-up I’m most looking forward to is game two between Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay. These are two, clear cut aces and it will be a wonderful game to watch. One thing that is for sure is that the game will go fast with two of the fastest workers in the league on the mound. The other pitching match-ups look like this:
Recent head-to-head meetings:
Not surprisingly, the Phillies have dominated the head-to-head match-ups between them and the Marlins over the last two seasons, winning 25 out of the 36 times they’ve played one another. In 2010, Philadelphia went 13-5 against the then Florida Marlins, scoring
90 runs, and giving up only 67. What did catch my eye is that Ryan Howard and company struggled against a .500 team at home, but took 8 out of 9 games that they played in Florida. Last year, the results were more of the same for Philadelphia (12-6 record), but they reached a similar result in a different way. The offense scored 87 runs, virtually the same as 2010, but their pitching staff was stingier by only giving up 54 runs. However, even though the Fightin’ Phils played well at home (7-2 record), they struggled on the road (5-4 record).
This divisional showdown does have some newcomers joining the party, specifically at the back end of the bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon will have his first taste of the National League East; it won’t necessarily be the type of hype that surrounds the Red Sox and the Yankees, but it’ll be a pretty good start being in front of Philly fans for the first time. Heath Bell broke into the the Majors with the Mets, so he’s familiar with the NL East and the Phils, but it will be different now that they are inter-division rivals. Jose Reyes never left the division, but it’s still weird seeing him in Miami Marlin orange instead of NY Met orange. Mark Buehrle will look for his first win in a uniform other than that of the White Sox in the series finale.
What people are saying:
Justin Klugh, the senior editor for That Ball’s Outta Here, the MLB Fansided site dedicated to the Phliadelphia Phillies, feels that the Fightin’ Phils will be coming out victorious after this series is over. He wouldn’t be surprised if the early season struggles come to a head and Ozzie Guillen goes on his first of probably many angry rants as the Marlins manager, and the team’s performance may start to show everyone around the league that the team isn’t all that spectacular. Even though Justin thinks Philly will struggle offensively, the pitching will carry them to victory, taking at least two out of three in this opening home series at home.
Match-ups to watch for:
Justin Klugh is interested to see how southpaw Cole Hamels performs against the entire Marlins lineup. However, he specifically wants to watch how Hamels pitches to Miami’s prized off season acquisition and familiar National League East foe, Jose Reyes. Klugh said, with his patented sense of humor, “I want to see Jose Reyes, a guy we have been unable to control historically, sitting in the dugout, questioning the majority of his life choices after witnessing a devastating Cole Hamels change-up.”
For me, I’m most excited to see the possible match-up between Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and Marlins slugger, Giancarlo
Stanton. With both offense struggling to start the season and the pitching performing up to par, there is a good chance these two players will meet in the 9th inning with the game on the line. This is power against power; Papelbon loves through his mid-90s fastball to challenge almost every hitter he faces, and Stanton has enough power to supply electricity to some foreign countries. Add in the hitter’s haven that is Citizen’s Bank Park to the mix, and you have an exciting matchup between these two.
After watching the first full weekend of games come to a close, it’s hard for me to believe that the Marlins will be able to kick their offense into gear against one of the best pitching rotations (if not the best) in Major League Baseball. Miami does have a lot of potential to be a good team, and they will start to find their swing (no pun intended), but I don’t think it’s going to happen this week against the Phillies. Cole Hamels and company will show that dominant pitching and they’re hoping for timely hitting that will prove to be too much for Hanley Ramirez and the rest of his team, as the Phillies take two out of three and continue the dominance of their division rival.