The real test: Phillies vs. Marlins series preview

Believe it or not, Sunday’s 13-1 drubbing was the ideal way for a lengthy winning streak to end. Obviously, we’d prefer that it never end (and there were a few moments when it seemed like it might not), but when the inevitable loss eventually does come, it’s best if it comes with a fury.

I’ve talked before about how sometimes when a team is struggling, they’ll put together a game where everything seems to go right, and they win by double digits. The problem is, they usually go right back into “suck mode” the following game. The inverse is also usually true. Sometimes when a team is going well, they manage to condense the suck into one game – and yesterday’s game would certainly fit that description – and then resume their winning ways.

The only problem with this optimistic scenario is that the next opponent the Phillies will be facing is a team which has vexed them over the past few seasons. Like most recent editions of the franchise, the Marlins are an unimposing team on paper. But the Phillies have made an artform over losing to unimposing Marlins teams over the past few seasons.

If the Phillies have indeed turned their season around, then they’ll get right back on the winning horse against the Marlins.

Record: 27-31 (Fourth place in National League East, 11 games back)

The last time they met

The Phillies traveled to Miami in April, and as they so often do when they visit Miami, played poorly. The Phillies lost three out of four, including the finale where the Marlins jumped all over a still working his way into shape Zack Wheeler.

Since then?

That series hasn’t propelled the Marlins to greater success. Many pundits had them pegged as a potential surprise contender this season, but they’re four games under .500, and that is even after a recent five-game winning streak. The main culprit is their offense which aside from Jazz Chisholm lacks a lot of impact bats. They rank average to below average in most offensive categories, and as a result are just eleventh in the NL in runs scored.

Who’s cold?

There’s been a lot of criticism of J.T. Realmuto, who has had a disappointing season thus far. But even in his disappointing season, he’s still been one of the best catchers in baseball.

There’s also a sentiment that instead of re-signing Realmuto prior to 2021, they should have found a cheaper alternative and used that money elsewhere.

The problem with that scenario is that the cheaper alternatives often look like Marlins starting catcher Jacob Stallings. Stallings currently has an OPS of .526, and despite being adequate defensively, has been worth negative runs above replacement.

No easing into things

The series opens with an excellent starting pitching matchup as Phillies’ non-ace Aaron Nola will take on Marlins’ ace Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara has been a very good pitcher for a few years now and has almost always been an issue for the Phillies (3.11 career ERA against them, and he’s 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA at Citizens Bank Park). But he seems to have reached a new level this season and is currently on an 18-inning scoreless streak.

Fortunately, Nola has been good in his own right this season and is also coming off a start in which he didn’t allow any runs.

It won’t be easy, but the Phillies were able to top the reigning Cy Young Award winner last week. If they want to show us that Sunday’s unfortunateness was just a one-game blip, beating Alcantara would be a great way to do so.

Speaking of the streak

Even during their winning streak, the Phillies still had a bad habit of wasting prime scoring opportunities and the relievers still gave us some shaky innings. They were able to overcome those problems because the offense had the best on-base percentage in the NL and also hit the most home runs during that stretch of time. And for the most part, the starting pitchers were delivering quality starts.

This team is designed to win behind good starting pitching and an excellent offense that mashes a lot of home runs. It shouldn’t be a shock that when those things actually happen, the wins follow.

Seranthony the closer? Let’s slow down there…

It sounds like the news on Corey Knebel’s injury status is good:

You might consider this bad news if you want to see Knebel removed from the closer role. Many have called for Seranthony Dominguez to take over, but I’m not a member of that bandwagon. I love having Dominguez available at any point in the game to put out those mid-inning fires that so often arise. We’ve seen too many games spiral out of control in recent seasons because Brandon Kintzler or David Hale came in and allowed inherited runners to score.

If you limit Dominguez to the ninth, then the game might get out of hand before he could ever be used. Now if you want to switch Conor Brogdon into the closer role, or go by a committee approach, I’m listening.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Marlon Anderson (maybe he should have been the answer for this series’ question!) had a five-hit game against the Diamondbacks in May 2002. The Phillies still lost the game, but SLDH won by getting the correct answer first.

This series’ question: How many career home runs did Marlon Anderson hit against the Marlins franchise?

Non-Phillies thought

A few weeks back, I talked out the streaming duel between Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi. While Kenobi still has more episodes to go, I’d rate it as good, while the first half of ST’s season four was excellent.

Closing thought

Optimism has bitten me before, but I’m confident that the Phillies got all their poor play out of their system on Sunday. They’re going to find a way to win the Alcantara game, and they’re going to actually win this series.

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