Despite the fanfare surrounding Chase Utley's return, the second half of the Pirates series did not go according to plan. In dropping the latter portion, the Phillies gained nothing on a Wild Card opponent, spoiled a 10-game a homestand, and missed a golden opportunity against a seemingly inferior club.
With that in mind, and the All-Star break looming, the Phils travel to South Beach for a three game set at the Marlins' new digs. While it's always fun to tour a new ball park, the only scenery we can focus on now is the view in the standings: 9.0 back of Washington, 5.5 back of the Wild Card -- with seven teams ahead of them.
Miami is one of the teams in front of the Phillies, both in the NL East and the WC, but only by a half-game. That means the good guys have a legitimate shot at putting a rival behind them this weekend, and perhaps finally crawl out of the basement for good.
After going 21-8 during the month of May, the Marlins have fallen on hard times in June, with just six victories in 24 games, and just three since June 3. Only the Dodgers' offense has scored fewer runs per in the NL, and they at least have the excuse of missing their best player, while only the Rockies -- with their ridiculous four-man rotation -- have a higher ERA.
These are the 2012 Phillies though, and they know a little something about letting awful teams hang around so they can steal one or two. We promise not to do anything crazy, like predicting Cliff Lee (0-4, 3.72) pick up win number one tonight. This is Lee's first start versus Miami this year, but he was 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA against the fish in 2011.
Josh Johnson (4-5, 3.96) is on the hill in the opener for the Marlins. After a bumpy start, Johnson has been on a roll. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start since May 4 -- and more than two only twice over his last nine -- a period over which he's amassed a 4-2 record and lowered his ERA from 6.61 to 3.96. The Fightins shelled a different guy back in April, when they chased the All-Star pitcher from the game in the fourth.
As for the new stadium, it looks... interesting. I wouldn't pass judgment on it without actually visiting in person, but in photographs Marlins Park looks like something that was designed for a video game, or imagined in a futuristic movie. I'm sure we'll get plenty of unique looks during the broadcast.
But that structure in center field. Wow. Okay, I feel confident enough to say that thing is patently absurd.
Utley is back in the lineup tonight, and I dig Polanco and Mayberry in the seven and eight holes. Could add some support at the back end, especially if Cliff is swinging the bat well. Go get 'em.
1. Rollins, SS
2. Pierre, LF
3. Utley, 2B
4. Ruiz, C
5. Pence, RF
6. Victorino, CF
7. Polanco, 3B
8. Mayberry, 1B
9. Lee, P