PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (53-32, +9.7 Units)
at FLORIDA MARLINS (38-46, -7.4 Units)
Sportsbook.com Series Line: Philadelphia -160, Florida +130
Coming off of their run through interleague play in which they took three straight series from Oakland, Boston, and Toronto, the Phillies prepare to jump back into National League East division competition with a trip to south Florida to take on the struggling Marlins. The last time that the Phils and Marlins squared off, Florida was in the middle of an 11-game losing streak, which was preceded by a win and an eight-game losing streak. Philadelphia swept Florida four straight games. Two days later Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned (losing 19 of 20 will do that to a man). The Phillies have not slowed down much since that sweep. With a record of 53-32, the NL East-leading Phils have the best record in the major leagues. Baseball scores.
The Marlins should be able to give Philly a pretty good run for its money, if for no other reason than the fact that they will not have to contend with 2011 All-Stars Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who have been close to untouchable of late (at least Lee was until he gave up three home runs in the eighth inning Sunday in a 7-4 loss). The Phillies big four rotation of ace starters is now down to the big three with Roy Oswalt on the DL. Throw Halladay and Lee out of the mix for this series, and Cole Hamels under .500 lifetime versus Florida and we have the potential for a surprise. My pick is for FLORIDA to win the series.
The FoxSheets also back the Marlins with this trend.
FLORIDA is 22-6 (78.6%, +15.9 Units) against the money line vs. NL teams scoring 4.3 or less runs/game in the second half of the season over the last 2 seasons. The average score was FLORIDA 5.0, OPPONENT 3.2 – (Rating = 2*). Baseball odds.
The Marlins are 5-5 in their past 10 games, and have 80-year-old Jack McKeon back at the helm. Some in Miami dream of seeing Trader Jack re-kindle the spirit of 2003 when the skipper led the team to its second world title. The realists around the team would simply be happy with a return to respectability. That return appears to be within reach, albeit a very distant, work in progress sort of reach.
The Marlins have won two straight series, and are winners of four of their past five games. Despite an offense ranked in the bottom third of the league in runs scored and hitting, the bats have awoken of late, producing 28 runs in the past five games. Philadelphia is trying to get the bats of two key starters going, All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco and LF Raul Ibanez. Polanco has three hits in 24 at-bats, including an 0-for 12 collar over the weekend in Toronto. He has seen his average drop from .398 in April to its present .277. Ibanez batted .211 in the month of June with just five RBI and has one hit thus far in July.
Pitching Probables for Monday, July 4 – 6:10 ET
Monday line: Philadelphia -105, Florida -105, Total: 8
PHI: 5-2 (+3.05 Units) when Vance Worley starts
FLA: 7-10 (-4.60 Units) when Ricky Nolasco starts
While Philadelphia is 17-4 overall in games played at Florida over the past three seasons, they have been fortunate enough to avoid Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 4.08 ERA) for the most part. He has faced the Phils only three times in three years. For his career, the right-hander has shown consistent effectiveness versus Philly, going 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He is coming off a complete-game, five-hit shutout over Oakland June 29.
Worley (3-1, 2.57 ERA) has faced the Marlins just once in his brief career, losing to them in September of last year when he allowed two runs on six hits over five innings, striking out five. We can allow Worley some slack, given that it was his major-league debut as a starter. Worley has stepped into the rotation spot formerly filled by Roy Oswalt, who went on the 15-day DL on June 24.
Pitching Probables for Tuesday, July 5 – 7:10 ET
Tuesday line: TBD
PHI: 11-6 (+1.45 Units) when Cole Hamels starts
FLA: 8-8 (+0.65 Units) when Chris Volstad starts
The Phillies will be keeping a very close eye on how Hamels (9-4, 2.41 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) progresses, and hopes he can avoid fielding any line drives, after his scare last Thursday versus Boston when he took a liner off his non-pitching hand and was forced to leave the contest early after four innings. Hamels is 2-0 this year against Florida, defeating the fish two weeks ago in Philadelphia, and out-dueling Anibal Sanchez back in April.
Volstad (4-7, 5.21 ERA) struggled in his last outing versus the Phils, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings. Volstad is coming off of one of his stronger pitching efforts, a seven-inning outing against Oakland, in which he allowed one run and seven hits.
Pitching Probables for Wednesday, July 6 – 7:10 ET
Wednesday line: TBD
PHI: 3-3 (-0.10 Units) when Kyle Kendrick starts
FLA: 8-9 (-1.60 Units) when Anibal Sanchez starts
In his last start versus the Phillies, Sanchez (6-2, 3.22 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) actually out-pitched Roy Halladay, as he went seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits and left the game with the lead. Then the Marlins bullpen did what teams in the midst of losing 19 of 20 games do: they blew the game. Sanchez was not as sharp in his last start against Texas, when the Rangers roughed him up for seven runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings. It was the shortest outing of the year for Sanchez. Baseball spreads.
Kendrick (2-2, 4.80 ERA, 1.200 WHIP) was far from Cy Young-esque in his last outing, a Canada Day matinee airfare in Toronto last Friday , as he allowed six runs on eight hits over seven innings. He also allowed two home runs on the day. Kendrick did have a very strong outing against Florida June 15, when he allowed just one run on five hits over seven innings as the Phillies took game one of a doubleheader. Duplicating that performance will be a tall order as he goes up against the Marlins’ winningest pitcher this season.