Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

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Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

Marlins (1-3) vs. Phillies (1-2) 1:05 p.m. on CSN

Starting pitchers
Cole Hamels, hoping to stop the teams two-game losing streak, takes the hill in the Phillies home opener. The free-agent-to-be was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA and a microscopic 0.99 WHIP in 2011. Hamels finished sixth in the NL in ERA, second in WHIP, second in hits-per-nine innings, fourth in walks-per-nine and fifth in complete games. Hamels makes 15 million in his final arbitration year.

The Marlins send out righthander Anibal Sanchez, the third consecutive starter the Phillies face who lost nine games last season. Sanchez in 2011 was 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 196 innings. Since 2009, Sanchez is 3-4 in 11 starts vs. the Phils with a 3.88 ERA. Hes 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts at Citizens Bank Park. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter in Sept. 2006 to end the longest no-hitter drought in major-league history (6,364 games).

Previous games
The Phillies lost their third consecutive series at PNC Park when Andrew McCutchen hit a walkoff RBI single off David Herndon Sunday. The Phils batted .204.264.255 against the Pirates with three extra-base hits in three games.

The bullpen blew a save, allowing seven baserunners over 2 23 innings. Michael Stutes allowed two runs and Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo combined for one.

The Marlins served up a walkoff of their own Sunday, losing to the Reds, 6-5, in a game they led in the ninth inning. Heath Bell allowed four hits and two runs in a third of an inning. The Fish are 1-3, having been stifled offensively in their first two games (home vs. St Louis, at Cincinnati).

Head-to-head
After years of struggles with the Marlins, the Phillies are 25-11 against Miami since 2010.

Hamels is 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA lifetime vs. the Marlins. His peripherals are familiarly impressive -- .226 opponents batting average, better than a strikeout per inning, four times as many strikeouts as walks.

The Phillies have great career numbers vs. Sanchez, but much of the run production came from Chase Utley (.441 batting average in 34 at-bats) and Ryan Howard (two homers, two doubles, 11 walks to nine strikeouts).

Placido Polanco is 9 for 18 off Sanchez with two home runs. Jimmy Rollins is 10 for 30 (.333).
Whos hot
Hunter Pence, who has seven of the Phillies 16 total bases. Pence had an RBI double and a solo home run to put the first two runs of the game on the board Sunday.

For the Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio is 5 for 15 with three steals. Omar Infante is 4 for 14 with a season cycle: a single, double, triple and home run.

Whos not
Freddy Galvis is 0 for 10. Ty Wigginton is 1 for 8. Rollins is 2 for 12. Kyle Kendrick has recorded four outs, but three were on line drives.

In the other clubhouse, Gaby Sanchez is 1 for 12 after an awful spring. Hanley Ramirez is 2 for 15.

Storylines
Can the Phillies avoid a 1-3 start?

How will Hamels pitch in the first start of his all-important contract year?

Will the Phillies hit Sanchez without Utley and Howard?

Does Juan Pierre start again in left field?

Will the bunting with a man on second and no outs stop?

Sound off
What is your biggest concern three games into the season?

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Jeremy Hellickson made his final start of the season for the Phillies on Thursday night.

Now he becomes the team’s first big offseason decision.

Hellickson had long left the game with a sore right knee by the time struggling reliever Jeanmar Gomez was tagged for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in what ended up as a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay). The Phillies were swept in their final trip to Turner Field — the Braves will move into a new ballpark in April — and have lost six of their last seven games heading into the final weekend of the season and a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s a bad time to be in a rut and we’re in a rut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’ve got to go home and snap out of it.”

Besides supporting his rotation mates, Hellickson won’t make any contributions this weekend. The 29-year-old right-hander, acquired in a November trade with Arizona, finished his season 12-10 in a career-high 32 starts. He tied a career high with 189 innings. His final ERA of 3.71 was his best since he recorded a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts for Tampa Bay in 2012.

Though he left the game in the fourth inning after tweaking his knee while running the bases (see story), Hellickson achieved his season goal.

“This isn’t anything that’s going to linger,” he said, looking down at his knee. “So I came out healthy. That was my main thing, try to throw 200 innings — I fell just short of that — and stay healthy. So as far as those two goals go, it was good.”

By staying healthy and pitching well, Hellickson built himself a nice free-agent platform. But before Hellickson heads out on the open market, the Phillies must make a decision: Do they offer him $17 million to retain him in 2017 or simply let him go. As a rebuilding team, the Phils would love to get a draft pick as compensation for Hellickson’s leaving. But to get that pick, they must make Hellickson that one-year qualifying offer and he must reject it and sign elsewhere. 

It seems likely that the Phils will make the offer to Hellickson. If he takes it, he will return in 2017 and fill the same veteran stabilizer role he did this season. If he rejects, the team will get a pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft. The value of that draft pick is significant and was seen as a reason the Phillies did not trade Hellickson in July.

Qualifying offers go out in early November, but general manager Matt Klentak isn’t ready to tip his hand on what he’ll do.

“Both are valuable,” he said, weighing Hellickson's returning on a one-year deal versus picking up a draft selection between the first and second rounds. “For the same reason Jeremy Hellickson was valuable to us this year, Jeremy Hellickson or a player like that could be valuable to us again next year. The draft pick at the end of the first round has a real, measurable, tangible value.”

After Thursday night’s game, Hellickson was asked if he believed he’d made his final start with the Phillies.

“I hope not,” he said. “But I don’t really know how to answer that. I would love to be back here next year. I think everyone knows how much I’ve enjoyed my time here and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

The pitcher was pressed as to whether he could envision himself accepting the qualifying offer if the Phillies made one.

“Yeah, I mean I definitely could see it,” he said. “But …"

Hellickson paused. Then a reporter broke the silence by suggesting the pitcher would rather get a multi-year deal on the open market.

“Yeah, I would love that actually a little bit more,” he said.

The Phillies could look to strike a multi-year deal with Hellickson before he hits the open market five days after the World Series, but that does not appear to be in the club’s plans. The Phils seem to be interested mostly in short-term deals for veterans as they let their kids develop.

In time, this thing will play out.

But for now, the Phillies head home looking to stop a losing streak and scuttle the Mets’ postseason hopes.

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Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina hit a disputed double that drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night, sending the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3.

The Cardinals began the day one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk from Blake Wood (6-5). With two outs, Molina's one-hop hit appeared to bounce off a sign above the left-field wall and carom back into play.

Carpenter kept running and scored from first. Reds manager Bryan Price ran after the umpires, who left the field as soon as Carpenter touched the plate.

Price later said umpire crew chief Bill Miller told him that teams have 10 seconds to appeal on a game-ending play, and that the complaint wasn't made in time.

"I'm not blaming the umpires. I'm blaming the system," Price said.

Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers for the Cardinals.

Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) wound up with the win (see full recap).

Jimenez delivers strong start, Orioles blank Blue Jays 4-0
TORONTO -- Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-0 on Thursday night, moving into a tie with Toronto in the AL wild card race with three games remaining.

When he started at Toronto on June 12, Jimenez allowed five runs and six hits in 1/3 of an inning, the shortest start of his career.

The right-hander returned Thursday and carved up the Blue Jays. The only hit he allowed was Ezequiel Carrera's single to begin the first. Josh Donaldson followed with a walk but Jimenez retired the next six batters in order.

Devon Travis walked to open the third and advanced on Carrera's sacrifice, but that was the first of 11 consecutive outs for Jimenez, a streak that ended with Edwin Encarnacion's two-out walk in the sixth. Jose Bautista flied out to end the inning.

Jimenez (8-12) allowed one hit in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He walked three and struck out five (see full recap).

Cubs, Pirates play to rare MLB tie
PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates played a rare major league tie on Thursday night when their game was called off due to rain with scores level at 1-all in the sixth inning.

With the Cubs and Pirates not scheduled to play again this season, officials decided the game would not be made up, since its outcome will not affect postseason positioning. Chicago long ago clinched the National League Central, while Pittsburgh is out of playoff reckoning, sitting third in that division.

So instead of becoming a suspended game, the match was declared a tie -- the first since Houston and Cincinnati went seven innings on June 30, 2005, before rain halted them.

Willson Contreras had two hits and scored for the NL Central champion Cubs, who have already clinched the best record in the majors. Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly for the Pirates.

The game was called in the top of the sixth after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Tim Federowicz hit a sacrifice fly in the Cubs second. Pittsburgh tied it in the third.

Cubs rookie Rob Zastryzny gave up one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings in his first major league start after beginning his career with seven relief appearances (see full recap).

Buxton doubles, triples in Twins' 7-6 victory over Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Byron Buxton tripled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Thursday night.

After Salvador Perez's pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth pulled the Royals within a run, Terrance Gore ran for him. With Paulo Orlando, who had four hits to match his career high, hitting, Brandon Kintzler picked Gore off first base.

Gore was initially called safe, but after a 1 minute, 15 second review, the call was reversed to end the game.

Buxton's one-out double triggered a three-run ninth off Kelvin Herrera (2-6). Robbie Grossman, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler contributed run-scoring singles in the ninth.

The Twins won for the first time in 10 games this season at Kauffman Stadium (see full recap).