Don’t look now, but the Phillies have won five of their last seven, matching their best stretch so far this season. A trip to Miami would seem like the perfect way to capitalize on this recent good fortune, yet it was the lowly Marlins who halted their momentum the last time.
After taking the first two of a four-game set against the Fish, the Phils collapsed. They were unable to solve rookie and master jacket wearer Jose Fernandez for the second time in Game 3, getting held to one hit in a shutout loss. Then came the Roy Halladay meltdown, along with his subsequent apology to the fans and ensuing surgery.
While you can’t necessarily expect them to win every day – even if it is the Marlins – splitting isn’t quite getting the job done, either. At 12-32, Miami is tied for the worst record in baseball, and they’ve produced the fewest runs in the Majors by a whopping 25, averaging 2.66 per game.
And up to this point, the Phillies are just 4-3 through two series with the NL East foe.
Despite the inability to fully take advantage of their weakest opponent – not to mention they’ve been below .500 themselves for over a month since April 15 – Philadelphia has managed to stay within striking distance of the division leaders. The Fightins are 4.5 back of the Braves for first place, 2.5 behind the Nationals in second.
They’ll have a chance to reverse the gap with the Nats in their head-to-head series later this week in Washington, but only if they take care of business down by South Beach first.
Marlins pitching has given the Phillies fits though, particularly Fernandez and Kevin Slowey, both of whom they run into again this week. Fernandez has completed baffled Charlie Manuel’s crew, holding the Phils to three hits over 13 innings, while Slowey has held them to one run through 12.1.
Manuel will be shorthanded as well, at least for the start of the series. Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard were both delayed so they could get MRIs. Howard is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow – although that does not automatically mean he will be available – but Triple-A catcher Humberto Quintero traveled with the team to Florida in case Chooch winds up on the DL.
Update: Howard is day-to-day, while Ruiz will hit the DL on Tuesday and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a hamstring strain.
Those may not even be the biggest absences. With Doc out for the foreseeable future, John Lannan still unavailable, and no obvious options to fill that fifth spot, Tyler Cloyd is slated to return in Game 2 for his second start of the year. That could be a tough draw with Fernandez on for Miami.
Setup man Mike Adams officially went on the 15-day DL on Monday as well, placing additional pressure on the bullpen as well. Quintero replaces him on the 25-man roster.
Even taking all of that into consideration, this is the one opponent where you can’t complain about having a handful of guys out of action. The Phillies should be taking two of three from this sorry club every time, bare minimum.
If they do that much at least, the Phils could be heading into a three-game set with the rival Nats winners of seven or possibly eight of their last 10 – a genuine wave of momentum. It starts tonight with Cole Hamels, who has a chance to rebound against the worst offense in baseball.
Then again, if Hamels continues to struggle with his command, gets knocked around by the Marlins, and fails to pick up his second win of the season, that could establish an entirely different tone, perhaps even washing away their momentum entirely.