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HANLEY RAMIREZ SET TO RETURN TUESDAY VS. PHILLIES
Fri, 01 Jul 2011 01:56 PM EDT

FLORIDA MARLINS (32-33)

at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (40-26)

First pitch: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Line: Philadelphia -205, Florida +187, Total: 8

One of the benefits about living in a city with multiple professional sports teams whose seasons overlap is that when one of your hometown favorites is struggling, there is another team you can turn to, to lift your spirits. Take Miami for example, despite the fact that the Dolphins are off the radar in the middle of the NFL lockout that has no end in sight, and the Florida Panthers finished their season with the worst point total in the NHL’s Eastern conference, fans in South Florida still have the Miami Heat and the Florida Marlins to get excited about!

OK, they have the Florida Marlins to get excited about, losers of 11 of their past 12 games.

If that doesn‘t do it for you, the Miami Hurricanes home opener is three months from Friday.

It’s been a very hard two weeks for sports enthusiasts in South Florida, as the Florida Marlins have been fading faster than LeBron James in the fourth quarter. As May ended, the Marlins were 31-22 and trailed the first-place Phillies by only two games. On Tuesday, they enter play 7½ games behind Philly, and are much closer to last place Washington (2½ games better), as they begin a four-game series in the City of Brotherly Love. If that wasn’t enough of a dilemma, they will be facing Cole Hamels, who is maybe the toughest pitcher in the NL this year not named Roy Halladay. Odds.

Hamels enters the contest 8-2 with a 2.58 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He has won two of his past three decisions, including his last outing against the Dodgers, 2-0, when he struck out nine, walked none and allowed six hits during eight innings of shutout baseball. Over his past three outings, Hamels’ control has been pinpoint. In his past 23 innings he has struck out 23 batters and walked just three. While Hamels has won two of his past three outings against Florida, the Marlins have shown that they can handle and defeat him. Hamels is 4-7 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 16 career starts against Florida, and his team is only 6-10 in these starts. In his one start against the Marlins this season, Hamels took a no-decision on April 17, when he pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs, striking out seven.

The Phillies are in the middle of the pack in baseball in terms of runs scored, and the issue of the inconsistent offense has been much discussed in town. One positive sign for the team is the play of Chase Utley, with his bat and his glove. Utley presently has a five-game hitting streak, is coming off back-to-back, multi-hit games, had four RBI in a win on Saturday, and made a dazzling running catch in the ninth inning Sunday with the tying run on base that ended the game, helping the Phillies take three of four from the Cubs. Scores.

Florida will counter with right-hander Chris Volstad (2-6, 5.78 ERA). For a team that has lost 11 of 12 and is beginning a seven-game road trip, on paper, Volstad would appear to be the wrong choice. In five games away from home, he is 0-2 with an ERA of 7.56. Volstad has lost his past three outings, allowing 20 hits (4 HR) and 11 runs over these 17 innings. Against Philly for his career, he is 2-3 with a 4.44 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. His team’s record is 3-7 in these starts. He took three no-decisions against Philadelphia last season, with his team going on to lose all three games.

Florida is in the bottom third of the league in runs scored and batting average. Last week the team fired its hitting coach John Mallee and replaced him with former MLB player Eduardo Perez. Another boost to the offense is star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who will be activated from the DL on Tuesday (back strain). Despite the fact that Ramirez is only hitting .210 on the season with four HR and 17 RBI, the Marlins will take whatever good news they can find, which has been in very short supply the last two weeks in South Florida. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) Marlins fans won’t have to make a “decision” over what to watch on TV, a baseball game from Philly, or Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Despite their recent struggles, the Marlins have tallied 21 runs in their past four games, and have a strong track record against Hamels. The pick here is heavy underdog Florida, which is supported by this pair of highly-rated FoxSheets trends.

Play On – All underdogs with a money line of +100 or higher (FLORIDA) – with an excellent bullpen whose ERA is 3.00 or better on the season, with a tired bullpen – after 3 straight games throwing 4+ innings. (35-14 since 1997.) (71.4%, +30.2 units. Rating = 4*).

Play Against – Any team (PHILADELPHIA) – poor NL offensive team (<=4.1 runs/game) against a team with a good bullpen (ERA<=3.75), with a hot starting pitcher- WHIP <= 1.000 over his last 3 starts. (66-38 over the last 5 seasons.) (63.5%, +25.4 units. Rating = 2*). Las Vegas odds.


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