Phillies-Marlins 5 Things: Another Daunting Task in Facing Jose Fernandez

Phillies (43-50) vs. Marlins (49-42)
7:05 p.m. on CSN 

The Phillies' offense looks to shake off its collective cobwebs after getting one hit Sunday afternoon by Mets starter Jacob deGrom.

They'll do so with Aaron Nola on the hill against the Miami Marlins and Jose Fernandez to start a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park.

Here is what you need to know before tonight's first pitch.

1. Hip, hip Jose
The Phillies are likely looking to come up for air after Jacob deGrom's one-hit shutout Sunday, and they'll receive no such luck with their next opponent.

Jose Fernandez is undoubtably an ace. He's turns 24 at the end of July and that last sentence is not an overstatement in the slightest. Simply put, Fernandez can pitch.

The numbers bare it out pretty easily. In 107⅓ innings pitched, he has a 2.52 ERA (actually a bit behind than his career numbers), allowing just 78 hits and 31 walks for a WHIP of just north of one. His ERA is good for seventh in baseball.

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But here's the really impressive part. He has 154 strikeouts in those innings. He fans over 12.9 batters per nine innings, nearly 1.5 strikeouts per nine better than the next closest pitcher, Max Scherzer. Fernandez has struck out 36.5 percent of the batters he's faced.

How does he do it? His most used pitch is a fastball that touches 99 mph and sits in the mid 90s. After that, he throws a curveball that is one of, if not the, best pitches in baseball. He's thrown it 545 times this season and induced 96 strikeouts on it, with a .127 batting average against it. Beyond that, he mixes in a changeup in the high 80s that can play off his fastball.

Right-handed batters hit just .172 off him with a slugging percentage of .242, while lefties have a bit more success with a .238 batting average. 

There aren't many stretches where you face two of the top seven pitchers in ERA, but that's where the Phillies find themselves tonight. Fernandez hasn't faced the Phillies this season and is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in five career starts against them. He has gone an average of 5.6 innings per start against the Phils.

2. Six hits from 3,000
The Marlins boast an outfield of three All Star-type talents with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and, of course, Giancarlo Stanton. But those three aren't the focus right now.

After a three-hit day Sunday, 42-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is just six hits away from 3,000 for his career in the United States. If you include his stats playing with Orix in Japan, he has 4,272 career hits, a mark surpassed by no one.

The last MLB hitter to get 3,000 hits was Alex Rodriguez last June, four years after Derek Jeter did so in 2011. Craig Biggio was the last non-Yankee to do it, reaching the plateau in 2007. 

Ichiro, who was a teammate of both Rodriguez and Jeter, is no longer the hit machine he was in the early-to-mid 2000s. He went through a serious decline starting in 2011, leading to the Mariners trading him to the Yankees. After parts of three seasons with the Yankees, he moved on to the Marlins last season only to have the worst season of his career, hitting just .229 and amassing just 91 hits in a reserve role.

Despite continuing in that role, he has been rejuvenated in 2016, hitting .337 and racking up 59 hits so far. 

He has a chance to reach 3,000 at Citizens Bank Park during this upcoming four-game set with the Phillies. However, with a 10-game homestand directly following it, the Marlins may try to hold Ichiro from reaching the milestone on the road. 

Still, this could be one of the last chances Phillies fans have to see the ageless wonder roam the outfield. With the way he's playing this year, an encore in 2017 isn't out of the question.

3. Righting the ship?
For the first time in 16 days, Aaron Nola will take the mound for the Phillies, looking to right the ship after five straight downright ugly starts.

Nola is just 363 days removed from his major league debut, which was last July 21. However, it was easy to forget when he looked like a dominant No. 1 starter during the Phillies' early season success. He brought a 2.65 ERA into June 11 in Washington, but comes into Monday with a 4.69 ERA.

How did we get here? Well, it's not all that simple to point out. He didn't start giving up a rash of home runs — just three of his 10 this season came during the stretch. His walk rate didn't spike. His fly ball to ground ball ratio has barely changed. His strikeouts fell slightly, but picked back up against the Royals in his last start, when he fanned seven.

The only thing that truly went out of whack were the number of hits he gave up. He gave up at least six in every game, including 10 against the San Francisco Giants during a start in which he recorded just 10 outs. 

Whether it's an issue of fatigue, command, a flaw in his motion or something else entirely, the Phillies hope skipping his last start and the All-Star break will help return him to his prior success. 

One thing to look out for is his fastball velocity. It did dip a bit in his last few starts and could be a contributing factor to his decline. He still sports a curveball that sits up there with Fernandez for one of the best in baseball with just a .171 batting average against.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: In 24 career games (18 starts) against the Marlins, Odubel Herrera has 29 hits and six walks, good for a .367 average and .419 on-base percentage. After a day in which the Phillies' only hit came from their pitcher, they'll need Herrera to get things started from atop the lineup.

Marlins: Martin Prado has been a thorn in the Phillies' side for a long time, starting over 100 games against them and racking up 135 hits, including 15 home runs, his most against any opponent. He brings a .310/.355/.483 triple slash line against the Phils into tonight's game.

5. This and that
• Ryan Howard has faced Fernandez more than any other Phillies hitter. He's 2 for 12 with two walks and five strikeouts against him. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 8 with a walk against him.

• Of MLB pitchers with at least 20 plate appearances, Fernandez has the 10th highest batting average (.226) and 12th highest on-base percentage (.250). Vincent Velasquez is ahead of him in both areas with a .240 average and .269 on-base percentage. 

• Nola has not faced anyone on the Marlins more than six times. Prado is 3 for 6 against him, while Ichiro is 0 for 4. He has never faced Yelich or Stanton.

• The Marlins have a .273 batting average, the second highest of any team in baseball behind the Red Sox. 

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