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

Phillies recall Jake Thompson from Triple A, option Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley

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Phillies recall Jake Thompson from Triple A, option Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley

After Monday night's rain-soaked blowout loss, the Phillies' bullpen seems to be a bit depleted.

With that in mind, the Phillies have recalled pitcher Jake Thompson from Triple A and optioned reliever Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley.

After a lengthy rain delay cut short Vince Velasquez's start, the Phils' bullpen was charged with six innings of work in the 13-4 loss. Pinto, responsible for five of the runs, tossed 1 1/3 innings as play resumed in the fourth inning. 

He may not be down for long, though, as the Phils have an off day Thursday to recover.

Thompson seems like a peculiar choice to call up. He's struggled mightily this year in Lehigh Valley. The 23-year-old who came over in the Cole Hamels trade, is 4-11 with a 5.36 ERA. He's given up 107 hits in 94 innings pitched, as well as 36 walks on the year — one less than he gave up in 129 2/3 innings in 2016.

However, Thompson is already on the 40-man roster and has not pitched since going seven strong innings of two-run ball on July 20. 

Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

With less than a week to go before the trade deadline, the Phillies are putting Howie Kendrick in prime position to show off his skillset to a contender.

After sitting out last night's 14-3 loss, Kendrick returns to the lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field. In four games since returning from a hamstring injury, Kendrick has picked up where he left off, hitting .364 with two RBIs. Overall, Kendrick has appeared in just 37 games for the Phillies in 2017, but has been exceptional when healthy. 

Although he may not hit for power, his .350 batting average and ability to play multiple positions in the infield and outfield should be enough to interest teams. 

Cesar Hernandez will again lead off vs. the Astros. Much like Kendrick, Hernandez has had a strong return from the DL, hitting .321 with six RBIs in seven games since the All-Star break. He's also worked five walks compared to just three strikeouts. It's no surprise Hernandez's return has coincided with the Phillies' recent hot offensive stretch (see Game Notes)

Since the All-Star break, the Phillies have the seventh-most runs scored in all of baseball. Monday's loss ended a stretch of seven straight games of five or more runs scored for the Phillies — their longest single-season stretch since 2005.

Nick Williams will hit in the three-hole for the second straight game. Williams has sparked the Phils' stagnant offense since his arrival to the big leagues. In 20 MLB games, Williams is slashing .315/.350/.966 with four homers and 18 RBIs. 

Here is the Phillies lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Howie Kendrick, LF
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Nick Pivetta, P

And for the Astros:
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Josh Reddick, RF
3. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
4. Evan Gattis, C
5. Marwin Gonzalez, SS
6. Derek Fisher, CF
7. Alex Bregman, 3B
8. Norichika Aoki, LF
9. Charlie Morton, P