Marlins look to solidify lead over Phils in NL East

MLB

Pablo Lopez appears to have reverted to his customary form.

Lopez, who will start for the host Miami Marlins when they conclude a rare seven-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday afternoon, got off to a great start this season. He had a 2.10 ERA and allowed just one homer in his first six starts.

However, in his past two starts, Lopez has lasted a total of just 5 2/3 innings, allowing 12 earned runs, including two homers.

Curiously, Lopez, now in his third season, has never won a game in September, going 0-3 with an ugly 8.07 ERA. Lopez is 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA this season, somewhat in line with his career numbers: 10-16 and a 4.71 ERA.

But, given that Monday’s game is at home, Lopez should be comfortable. His career ERA at Marlins Park is 3.39, compared with 6.45 on the road.

And although Lopez has not faced the Phillies this year, he is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA against Philadelphia in three career starts.

Lopez is hoping to keep the momentum going for the Marlins, who swept a doubleheader from the Phillies on Sunday, winning 2-1 and 8-1 behind a pair of rookie starting pitchers, Sixto Sanchez and Braxton Garrett.

The Marlins moved a half-game ahead of the Phillies in the battle for second place in the NL East, a position that is guaranteed entry into the 2020 playoffs.

The Marlins also got good news in the second game of the doubleheader with the return of shortstop Miguel Rojas. Rojas, who missed the first game due to an injured middle finger on his throwing (right) hand, pulled a two-run double in the sixth. He went 2-for-3 to improve his batting average to .359.

“Our team is fearless,” Rojas said. “We’re trying to catch Atlanta for the one seed in the National League East.”

The Marlins trail Atlanta by 3 1/2 games.

The Phillies are scheduled to start right-hander Vince Velasquez (0-0, 5.85 ERA) on Monday. He made his first start of the season against the Marlins on July 26 in Philadelphia, and gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in three innings. He allowed two homers that game, including one to Rojas.

Velasquez has made 16 starts against the Marlins, going 4-3 with a 4.64 ERA. He has 75 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings.

The Phillies are also relying on right fielder Bryce Harper, who went 3-for-4 with two walks, three runs scored and a solo homer on Saturday, ending a slump that had seen him hit just .136 in his past 18 games.

That outburst prompted some happy comments from Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

“It’s really encouraging because we’re going to need his bat down the stretch,” Girardi said. “We know he can carry a ballclub.”

Harper, who is batting .259 with a .906 OPS after going 0-for-3 on Sunday, said he is grateful to his teammates. But he also said: “If we’re going to be successful as an organization, I have to play better.”

Philadelphia also needs to get healthier. Catcher J.T. Realmuto — a two-time All-Star — sat out Sunday’s doubleheader due to a hip injury, forcing backup Andrew Knapp to work both games behind the plate.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins also sat out the doubleheader after he got his left arm entangled with a base runner in Saturday’s game.

Both players are to undergo MRI exams on Monday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The good news for the Phillies is the continued progress of rookie third baseman Alec Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. In this series, Bohm is 10-for-20 with six runs scored, four RBIs, four doubles and one homer.

–Field Level Media

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