For the Philadelphia Phillies (39-35) the hope has to be that a return to home cooking, sleeping in their own beds, the comforting presence of their families, and the home crowd cheering them on at Citizens Bank Park will help turn their season back around.
The club left South Philly just over a week ago after being shutout by the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing a series for the first time to a team not named the Los Angeles Dodgers in more than a month.
Heading out on the road for seven games against their two most talented division rivals, the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, the Phillies floundered. They dropped six of the seven games, with one getting postponed by rain.
Over the last three weeks the Phillies have gone into a stunning free-fall, dropping out of the NL East Division lead. The club has lost four in a row, six of seven, and eight of their last 10 games. They are now also on the outside looking in where the National League Wildcard standings are concerned.
A month-long stretch against only NL East opponents continues this weekend. But instead of the top divisional opposition it will be the last-place Miami Marlins (27-46) paying a visit. The Fish have dropped 10 of their last 14, and only two teams in all of Major League Baseball have a worse record.
The two teams have met seven times already this season, with the Phillies capturing five of those games. In each of those two April series, a four-game set at Marlins Park and a three-gamer at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins managed to win one game. The Phillies have outscored Miami 37-25 so far, and it’s only that close because of a big 10-3 win by the Marlins on April 13.
Right now, the Phillies cannot afford to take any opponent for granted after being outscored 46-21 over the last week in their games against Atlanta and Washington. While this is a less talented opponent, the fact is that the Phillies aren’t pitching or hitting well enough to intimidate anyone lately.
Injuries certainly have played a role in the Phillies downfall. They have lost left fielder and leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen for the season. Their bullpen has largely been in shambles, with seven relievers on the Injured List at one point. But every team suffers injuries.
Manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff need to find some answers quickly, because the fan base is getting increasingly restless. If the fortunes of this team, one those fans had begun taking for granted as an exciting contender this season, do not turn around fast, those fans are going to become downright mutinous and ugly.
On a positive note, the Phillies will celebrate the career of franchise icon Chase Utley prior to and during the game on Friday night. Utley, who spent 13 seasons as the Phillies second baseman and was a hero of the 2008 World Series champions, is officially retiring as a member of the Phillies organization. Perhaps his presence and the atmosphere it inspires will contribute to a positive change in the atmosphere surrounding the current ball club.
FRIDAY STARTING LINEUPS
- Bryce Harper RF
- Rhys Hoskins 1B
- Jay Bruce LF
- J.T. Realmuto C
- Jean Segura SS
- Scott Kingery 3B
- Cesar Hernandez 2B
- Aaron Nola P
- Roman Quinn CF
Gabe Kapler pulling the old pitcher-batting-eighth routine, and this may be the perfect situation with a hitter such as Quinn.
- Miguel Rojas SS
- Harold Ramirez LF
- Brian Anderson 3B
- Starlin Castro 2B
- Cesar Puello RF
- JT Riddle CF
- Bryan Holaday C
- Yadiel Rivera 1B
- Sandy Alcantara P
SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
PHILLIES – Aaron Nola: 6-1, 4.89 ERA, 1.506 WHIP, 86 hits allowed over 81 IP across 15 starts with a 90/36 K:BB
MARLINS – Sandy Alcantara: 3-6, 3.73 ERA, 76 hits allowed over 82 IP across 14 starts with a 58/38 K:BB
PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES
- It’s been a split-decision for Alcantara in his only two previous starts against the Phillies. On September 5 of last season in just his second-ever big-league start he shut them down on three hits over seven innings at Marlins Park. But then on April 12 of this year, the Phillies pounded him for 11 hits and six earned runs over five innings at Citizens Bank Park.
- Nola has made 11 career starts against Miami over which he has a 3-4 record with a 3.48 ERA and 1.129 WHIP. The Phillies lost his only start this year against the Marlins, dropping a 3-1 decision that was in no way his fault. Nola allowed just one earned on seven hits over 6.2 innings, but Marlins starter Caleb Smith matched him and the Fish won in 10 innings.
- The Phillies have not lost a season series to the Marlins since the eventual 2008 world champions dropped 10 of 18 to them. In fact, the 2009 NL champions split with the Marlins 9-9. The Phillies have won the season series now for nine straight seasons and have won five of the first seven meetings so far this year.
- As much as the Phillies offense has struggled to score, with their 352 runs ranking just 9th in the National League, the Marlins have scored nearly 100 fewer runs. They rank at the bottom of the NL with 254 runs scored. The Marlins hitters are also collectively last in home runs and OPS. Their 23 stolen bases is tied with the Phillies and San Francisco Giants for next-to-last in the league.
- This could be a low-scoring series, because a struggling Phillies offense will be up against the strength of the Marlins team, their pitching staff. Miami pitchers have produced the fourth-best batting average against mark in the NL, and are tied for seventh in ERA and OPS while allowing the third-fewest home runs.
- Adam Morgan has returned, giving the Phillies a valuable lefty bullpen arm. Cole Irvin was sent to Triple-A.
- Utley has been making the rounds in the area while back east for tonight’s big ceremony. He helped dedicate a refurbished field for RBI, middle school, and high school games in Allentown, PA. Utley was part of the committee working with MLB to select fields around the country for refurbishment, and held a clinic at the site.
TICKET IQ PROGRAMMING INFORMATION
- Friday June 21 at 7:05 pm EDT vs. the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)
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- Cole Hamels could return to the Phillies on his way to the Hall of Fame
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