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Phillies Face the Fish

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    6: Cole Sticks Around (July 25, 2012)
    The only thing more popular for Phillies fans to do than speculating when Howard and Utley would return was to fret over the team possibly trading its ace Cole Hamels. It didn’t happen thanks to the team inking the lefty to a six-year, $144 million deal.

    This weekend, the Phillies will kick off a six game road trip that starts off in Miami, where they will take on the basement-dwelling Marlins in a three-game set. Following a series win against the Mets, the Phillies should be primed and ready to go against the floundering Marlins, who are very quickly turning into the laughing stock of baseball in 2013.

    It's hard to believe that a team like the Marlins, who a year ago made a lot of noise when they brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Health Bell to go along with established players like Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Giancarlo Stanton. But then you remember that their owner is Jeff Loria, and it all makes sense.

    Following a lousy season in which they finished last in the National League east, the Marlins held a fire sale that caught most everyone by surprise when they traded Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays for a pittance. That trade, which was panned by just about everyone, left the Marlins with hardly any start talent, a small payroll, and more or less turned them into a doormat for the rest of the league.

    To put it mildly, the Marlins are bad. Really, really bad. Through nine games, the Fish are 1-8. Their W-L column only tells you so much, because sometimes good teams don't always have the easiest time getting off the blocks, but allow me to reassure you: the Marlins are this bad. Let us count the ways.

    Their roster prominently features several players that even Ruben Amaro didn't want. Call it damning with faint praise, but you have to give the Phillies front office credit for not re-signing Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, or Chad Qualls in the off-season (although you'd be correct in being angry that Amaro didn't trade Pierre last season). Amaro's willingness to let them walk opened the door for the Marlins front office, who couldn't turn down an opportunity to bring the talented triumvirate to play baseball in South Beach. Maybe I'm being too hard on Polanco, but when he bats fourth, that's a problem.

    Oh yes, Placido Polanco is the Marlins' cleanup hitter. Polanco has played eight games this season, and he has hit in the number four spot in the lineup in half of them. Say what you want about whether or not lineup construction has any real impact on a team's offense, but Polanco is a 37-year-old infielder with a career slugging percentage of .402. I'm no expert, but when you have a singles hitter batting fourth, that's likely not going to work out well for your team. It's not like they have one of the youngest power hitters in the game, or anything.

    Speaking of young power hitters, 23-year-old Giancarlo Stanton is the one guy they didn't trade last season, which is a shame, because it means that he'll be forced to take pitches until he's blue in the face this season, because it doesn't make any sense to throw him any strikes when he is surrounded by such an impotent lineup. Corey Seidman from CSNPHhlly.com wrote about this on Thursday, but if the first week of the season is any indication, then Stanton is going to have a heckuva time hitting dingers. Sarte once wrote that “hell is other people,” but he obviously never played right field for the Marlins.

    While the pitching staff has (so far) proven to be somewhat adequate, the fact of the matter is the Marlins are scoring runs at about the same rate that Roy Halladay prevents them. In nine games, they've been shut out four times, and have scored three or fewer in four others.

    So, what does this mean for the Phillies. Well, it means that they should be very, very afraid of the Marlins. Why? Because for as long as I can remember, the Phillies have this nasty habit of playing down to their opponents, which is why they can never seem to beat the Houston Astros. A three-game series in Miami should be a cake walk, but baseball is a funny sport, and the Phillies never cease to amaze when it comes to reaching new levels of disappointment.

    I'm just kidding. The Phillies should have no trouble dealing with the Marlins this weekend, where they will be sending John Lannan, Cole Hamels, and Roy Halladay to the mound. Lannan was solid in his season debut against the Kansas City Royals, and if there is one thing that can get Hamels and Halladay back on the right track, it's facing the Miami Marlins.

    First pitch is Friday at 7:10, when Lannan (0-0, 3.86) squares off against Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.97).