Phillies (36-44) at Miami Marlins (37-40)
1:10 p.m. on PHL17
Sunday marks the official halfway point of the season and the Phillies are eight games under .500. Theyve lost four in a row and six of eight, and went 9-19 in June, second-worst in baseball to the Marlins.
The Phillies allowed 146 runs in those 28 June games, an average of 5.2 per contest. Only three teams in baseball the Marlins, Astros and Rockies surrendered more.
If the Phils can turn around what has been a catastrophic season, it must start today. After they finish up in Miami, the Phillies travel to New York for three with the Mets then return home for a three-gamer with the Braves leading into the All-Star break. The Phillies are 10-16 against NL East foes. Theyre 10 games back in the division and a frightening 7 back of the Mets for the second NL wild card spot.
Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.87 ERA) takes on Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 4.78 ERA) in a battle of pitchers who have disappointed in the first half.
Blanton has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the National League, with 82 Ks to just 13 BBs, but hes been plagued by an NL-leading 18 home runs allowed. Two of his last three starts have been very good, but hes been taken deep in nine consecutive games. Since the start of 2011, only two pitchers have had longer streaks of starts allowing a home run Phil Hughes with 12 and Brian Matusz at 11.
Blanton has faced the Marlins twice this season and is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA.
Nolasco is just a confusing pitcher. He had an excellent 2008, then in 2009 and 2010 put together great strikeout and walk numbers but had a 4.81 ERA. The last two seasons his strikeouts have declined precipitously and he now looks like a true-talent 4.50 ERA pitcher. Nolasco was once a borderline No. 2 starter. Now hes a four.
Nolasco allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings against the Phils earlier this season but picked up a win.
Nolascos made 13 starts against the Phillies in his career. Five have been bad, eight have been great. His last two starts vs. the Phils fall into the former category.
Hes a 6-foot-2, 230-pound righthander who throws a fastball, slider, curveball and splitter. His heater hovers around 89-91 mph.
Nolasco throws the fastball on the first pitch 61 percent of the time, per Inside Edge. The opposition is hitting .336 off his fastball.
Jim Thome was traded Saturday afternoon to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league catcher Gabriel Lino and righthanded pitcher Kyle Simon. Lino and Simon were ranked the Orioles 11th and 20th best prospects, respectively, by MLB.com. Not a bad haul for a 41-year-old DH on a one-year contract.
Its a sad ending to Thomes second stint with the Phillies. Hes proven that he can still hit with regular at-bats, but a pinch-hitting role just isnt for him. Thome hit .333 with four homers and 14 RBI as a DH with the Phils but was just 1 for 16 with 11 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter.
The Phillies replaced Thome on the active roster with outfielder Jason Pridie, whose contract was selected from Lehigh Valley on Saturday.
Hunter Pence is just 5 for 23 off Nolasco, but four of the five hits have been homers. Pence has homered in three consecutive games after a 23-game drought.
Shane Victorino is a candidate to sit. Hes 5 for 32 off Nolasco with no RBI, one walk and seven strikeouts.
Miamis two most important hitters Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton are batting under .200 against Blanton. Stanton has never homered off Blanton but who would be surprised if he hit a laser Sunday?
Blanton has struggled with Hanley Ramirez, who has eight hits in 24 at-bats.
Did you agree with the Thome trade?
E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com