The Miami Marlins, who play host to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, have a lot to prove.
Last year, the Marlins made the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 2003. However, their 2020 regular-season run was more like a stroll. Instead of grinding through a 162-game regular season, the Marlins — due to the pandemic — qualified with a much smaller sample size and a pedestrian 31-29 record.
This year, the Marlins started with a 1-6 record, seeming to confirm media opinions that last year was a bit of a mirage.
However, the Marlins have played solid baseball since then and are in contention in a bunched-up National League East that includes the Phillies. In fact, the Marlins have won two straight series against NL East rivals, beating the Phillies and New York Mets.
Overall, the Marlins have won six of their past eight games, including a series-opening 9-6 victory Monday night.
The Phillies are sliding in the other direction, having lost seven of nine.
On Tuesday, the Marlins will give the ball to right-hander Sandy Alcantara (2-3, 3.63 ERA), who beat the Phillies 6-0 on Thursday. Alcantara struck out nine batters in six innings, allowing just two hits and three walks.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi indicated that Alcantara’s fastball had a lot of movement.
“He was dominating,” Girardi said of Alcantara, who is 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies. “His fastball was all over the place.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said that Alcantara, who threw 100 pitches, could have gone seven or eight innings had it not been for the three walks.
That’s something for Alcantara to work on going into his Tuesday start. However, he is just happy he bounced back from his poor outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 14, when he allowed seven hits and eight runs with two walks and left after just 1 1/3 innings.
“You’re going to have a bad day sometimes,” Alcantara said. “I had a really bad day in Los Angeles.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies will start right-hander Vince Velasquez (1-0, 3.52 ERA) on Tuesday.
Velasquez was supposed to start Thursday against Alcantara, but he felt numbness in his right index finger and was scratched 20 minutes before game time.
“It was shocking,” Velasquez said.
Velasquez has had similar issues before, but not with that finger. In 2017, he left a start due to numbness in his right middle finger, and that ended his season after just 15 appearances.
After last week’s scare, Velasquez voiced his frustration.
“It’s normally the middle finger,” he said. “Now it’s the index finger. We have some questions. Why is that happening?”
The Phillies apparently believe that the issue has been resolved.
Velasquez is 4-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 career starts against the Marlins. He has never won in eight starts at Miami, going 0-4 with a 6.49 ERA.
The lineups could see some changes Tuesday.
Jorge Alfaro, whom the Marlins activated off the injured list on Monday, is expected to start at catcher. He had been sidelined for a month due to a hamstring injury. In addition, third baseman Brian Anderson, who left Monday’s game due to a sore left shoulder, likely will be replaced again by Jon Berti.
For the Phillies, it could be time to play star right fielder Bryce Harper, who rested the past two games due to a slump, a sore shoulder or possibly both.
In his past seven games, Harper is 2-for-25 (.080) with 13 strikeouts.
“He’s been scuffling,” Girardi said of Harper, who is hitless in his past 16 at-bats. “He hasn’t said anything about (the shoulder).”
–Field Level Media