Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

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Phillies-Marlins: What you need to know

Phillies (36-42) at Miami Marlins (35-40)7:10 p.m. on PHL17

The Phillies follow a disappointing end to their 10-game homestand by traveling to brand new Marlins Park for the first time.

Miami is in its first year at its new home, which mercifully has a retractable roof to eliminate the many rain delays that used to take place at Sun Life Stadium.

The Phils moved ahead of the Marlins in the NL East standings earlier in the week but find themselves back in the basement after losing to the Pirates Wednesday and Thursday. The Phillies needed to use the 10-game homestand to make up ground in the NL East, but they went just 5-5 against Colorado, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh and are as many games out of first place (nine) as they were prior to it.

Now begins a nine-game divisional stretch leading up to the All-Star Game in Kansas City. The Phils have three this weekend in Miami, then an off day, then three with the Mets at Citi Field and a final three-gamer at home with the Braves.

Starting pitchers
Cliff Lee begins the Phillies important NL East stretch opposite Marlins righthander Josh Johnson.

Lee, 0-4 with a 3.72 ERA, is still looking for his first win. Per CSN producer Dan Roche, Lee has the second-longest streak since 1969 of winless starts (12) in which he has thrown at least six innings.

Lee is currently experiencing one of the worst runs in his Phillies career, having allowed 14 runs on 25 hits in his last 20 innings. His last quality start was four outings ago, on June 5 against the Dodgers.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Lees recent struggles has been his high fly ball total. Lee, who has generated a ground ball rate of about 47 percent since the start of 2011, has induced just 20 grounders and 41 fly balls in his last three starts. Playing in the air can be dangerous, as evidenced by the eight extra-base hits Lees allowed in that span.

Johnson, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction. His season numbers arent as stellar as usual hes 4-5 with a 3.96 ERA and a .284 opponents batting average but hes lowered his ERA by almost three full points in his last nine starts.

Johnson over that span has a 2.56 ERA and has averaged nearly seven innings per start. That is the Josh Johnson were used to seeing.

Johnsons repertoire
The Phillies have seen him plenty over the years 15 times in all and the recipe has always been the same. Johnson throws heavy sinker after heavy sinker. Its simply hard to drive a 93-95 mph pitch that dives as it crosses the plate. Johnsons thrown his main pitch about 64 percent of the time for his career, but hes gotten away from it a bit this year in favor of a curveball. He also throws a slider and a change.

Forgettable Junes
At 9-17, the Phillies are 27th in baseball in June. The Marlins were a major-league best 21-8 in May, but are a major-league worst 6-18 in June.

Offense has the problem for the Fish, who are last in either league with 79 runs this month. Miami is hitting .226 with a .290 on-base percentage in June... so essentially the entire team is performing like Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata.

Pitching has been the Phillies issue. They have a 4.77 ERA this month, sixth-worst in baseball.

Howard taking the field
Not for the Phillies, but for the Lakewood BlueClaws. Howard made his first minor-league rehab appearance Thursday at Single A Lakewood, going 2 for 4 with three RBI as DH (see story).

On Friday, Howard will play first base in a competitive game for the first time since last October.

Key matchup(s)
Any time you face Jose Reyes team, priority numero uno is to keep him off the basepaths. But that might not be as much a problem this weekend as it has been in past years. Reyes is hitting just .269 this year and hasnt attempted a steal in his last 22 games.

Last season at this time, Reyes was hitting .349.394.528.

The Marlin that Lee has struggled most with is catcher John Buck, who is 13 for 41 (.317) with three homers and three doubles.

As for current Phillies, theyre hitting a surprising .297 off Johnson, though with very little power. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 22 for 69 (.319) off Johnson. Chase Utley has seven singles in 27 at-bats (.259) with just one RBI against the 6-foot-7 righty.

Sound off
Cliff Lee overunder: 7 wins

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

Pete Mackanin: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was 'a helluva pitcher'

Pete Mackanin: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was 'a helluva pitcher'

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of clich√© to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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Phillies suffer worst shutout loss in modern era to Mets

Phillies suffer worst shutout loss in modern era to Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Jake Thompson faced the issues that a 22-year old starter in his 10th career appearance usually does Sunday against the Mets.
 
Thompson struggled with his command at times, walking the bases loaded in the fourth inning before escaping his self-induced jam with a flyout. He hit a batter and surrendered a home run to Curtis Granderson on a pitch that caught too much of the plate.
 
The righty departed after four innings in what manager Pete Mackanin declared postgame to be Thompson’s last start of the season.
 
But perhaps neither he nor the rest of the Phillies expected the extent to which his struggles would ripple through the bullpen. The Phillies’ relievers surrendered 14 runs, hit three batters and gave up a grand slam in a 17-0 loss, the franchise's worst shutout defeat in the modern era (see Instant Replay).
 
“Obviously the bullpen has scuffled for a while now,” Mackanin said. “That shows you how much the game is about pitching. It keeps you in games, gives you an opportunity to win like it did the first couple of months of the season for us. Now, the last month, it’s not keeping us in games or it’s losing games.”
 
The Phillies’ relievers were charged with 28 runs over the course of their four-game swing in New York. Their collective 4.69 ERA is the fourth-worst in the National League.
 
Sunday, Phil Klein — who hadn’t pitched since he was recalled from Lehigh Valley on Sept. 10 — and little-used Colton Murray and Patrick Schuster — who had combined for three appearances in the past two weeks — took the brunt of the damage.
 
Klein walked two batters, surrendered two singles and hit Mets catcher Rene Rivera in the left hand to force in a run. He left the bases loaded for Murray, who allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. Murray was pulled in the seventh having gotten into a bases-loaded jam of his own. His replacement, Frank Herrmann, allowed all three runs to score on a walk and a grand slam by Asdrubal Cabrera.
 
Schuster was assigned five runs in the eighth after he was tagged for three hits, walked a batter and hit Gavin Cecchini.
 
Which pitchers — if any — out of the Phillies’ cadre of middle relivers will return next year is an open question and Mackanin made it clear that he will use the remaining six games in the season to evaluate his team’s arms.
 
“It’s another audition.” Mackanin said. “We want to see who might fit in.”
 
Thompson can clearly stake a claim to his role in the Phillies’ rebuilding effort. Despite the hiccup in his final outing, he has come a long way in just two months from being the pitcher that surrendered six runs to the light-hitting Padres in his Aug. 6 debut.

His changeup — a pitch that hitters had connected on for six home runs this year, according to data from Fangraphs — was particularly lively Sunday. Cabrera chased it out of the zone in the first inning for Thompson’s only strikeout.
 
“I think the changeup’s probably been my best pitch up here,” Thompson said. “I’ve given up a lot of homers on it, too. That just shows whenever you don’t execute it, it’s a tough pitch to throw in the zone. As far as the swing-and-misses that I was getting with it, it’s kind of night and day.
 
“At this point last year I pretty much had no changeup, so that’s a big thing for me.”
 
Only 23 on Opening Day next year, Thompson has plenty of room to improve.
 
The Phillies’ bullpen does, too.

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