Phillies (9-9) vs. Marlins (10-8)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
Monday off-days always feel better for a team after a successful weekend.
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The Phillies had one against the Braves, sweeping them out of South Philadelphia to reach .500. Atlanta has lost six in a row.
This week, the Phils welcome in the Miami Marlins, the only division team they've yet to face.
1. A different 9-9
The Phillies had the same record through 18 games last season but got there in a different way. Last April's run was fueled by strong starting pitching and a 7-2 record in one-run games.
The 2016 Phillies were 9-9 with a minus-23 run differential. The 2017 Phillies are 9-9 with a plus-seven run differential.
Pete Mackanin admitted Sunday that this record just feels different.
The Phillies are 6-2 in their last eight and have allowed 3.4 runs per game over that span. And that's against lineups that include Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, a red-hot Ryan Zimmerman, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp.
The upcoming schedule is tough -- after hosting the Marlins, the Phillies have a seven-game road trip to face the Dodgers for three games and the Cubs for four.
2. Velasquez looks for two in a row
Vince Velasquez pitched much better than his line last Wednesday at Citi Field. After averaging a major-league worst 21.3 pitches per inning in his first two starts, he needed just 84 pitches to complete six innings.
He was through 5 2/3 scoreless before Bruce beat him for a three-run homer.
Velasquez just had everything working against the Mets. He threw more than twice as many sinkers (11) than he threw in his first two starts combined (five). He had three 1-2-3 innings.
It was surprising to see Velasquez strike out only two batters in a whiff-prone Mets lineup, but it was no coincidence that by getting quicker outs he was able to go deeper into a game. Velasquez has struck out two or fewer batters in just three of his 27 starts with the Phillies and one of them was the game against the Cubs last season in which he lasted just one-third of an inning. It was a rare performance for him last week.
Velasquez faced the Marlins three times last season and went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA. He struck out 20, walked seven and allowed two homers in 18 innings.
The only time he faced them in Miami, he allowed four runs in the first two innings before settling in to pitch four scoreless. (That was the game that ended with Giancarlo Stanton's titanic blast off Hector Neris.)
In the two other meetings, Velasquez pitched five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and gave up just three hits and one run in seven innings two months later.
Christian Yelich has hit him the hardest, going 3 for 8 with a triple and two homers. Martin Prado is 3 for 9 with two doubles. Stanton is 0 for 6 with three strikeouts.
The Prados of the world can give Velasquez trouble because they don't swing and miss much.
3. Scouting the Fish
The Marlins are on the third and final leg of a rough road trip, travel-wise. They started out as far away from Miami as possible with a series in Seattle, then went to San Diego and wrap it up in Philly before heading home.
After losing three of the first four games of the trip, they ended the San Diego series with back-to-back wins.
Phillie-killer Marcell Ozuna is having a heckuva month, leading the majors with 21 RBIs. He's hit .306 with six homers and two doubles.
Stanton is heating up, which is bad news for the Phillies. He's 9 for 17 over his last four games with four homers, seven RBIs, two walks and one strikeout. He's obviously seeing the ball very well at the moment.
The book on Stanton, as always, is to beat him with low-and-away sliders. If the pitch starts in the middle of the plate he has a lot of trouble laying off of it. He's so big and extends his arms so far that he often thinks he can reach pitches he can't.
J.T. Realmuto has quietly become of the game's most consistent offensive catchers. He's hit .344 in the early going.
Second baseman Dee Gordon is always a threat to swipe a bag when he reaches. He's hit .288 with a .313 OBP so far and has stolen four bases in five tries.
Yelich, who bats third, is always a tough out.
The Marlins' lineup is deep.
4. A rare lefty starter
It seems like there are fewer left-handed starting pitchers than ever before, especially in the NL East. The Nationals have played all 18 games against right-handed starters. The Braves have faced only one, while the Phillies and Marlins have seen three.
On Tuesday, the Phillies face 31-year-old southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who the Marlins signed away from the Orioles two offseasons ago with a five-year, $80 million contract.
Chen disappointed in his first season in Miami in 2016, going 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts. He allowed 22 home runs, a surprisingly high mark at a ballpark as cavernous as Marlins Park.
In three starts this season, Chen is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA. He's coming off seven no-hit (yes, no-hit) innings last Tuesday in Seattle. He gave up six runs and two homers in three innings the previous start.
The Phillies beat up on Chen the last time they saw him, scoring four runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Current Phils have hit .378 off of him with five doubles and three home runs in 81 at-bats. Switch-hitting Daniel Nava is 7 for 17 with a homer and could get a start. Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 12 with two doubles. Freddy Galvis is also 5 for 12 with a double. Maikel Franco is 4 for 12 with a double and a homer.
5. This and that
• Monday was a much-needed day off for Hector Neris, who has labored through his last two outings, needing 49 pitches to get six outs. He's allowed runs in back-to-back games after starting the year with eight scoreless appearances.
• The Phillies' 1-2-3 hitters this season have a combined .384 on-base percentage. (This includes all players who have batted in one of those three spots.)
• In 58 career games against the Phils, Ozuna has hit .310 with 18 doubles, seven homers and 29 RBIs.
• We always notice it when they do, so let's also notice when they don't. Stanton has not been a Phillie-killer throughout his career, hitting just .252 against them with 19 homers and 44 RBIs in 86 games. Compare that, for example, to his numbers against the Nats: .301, 28 homers, 66 RBIs in the same number of games.
In four of his seven seasons, Stanton has hit .217 or worse against the Phillies.