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Thu, Sep 15, 2011 - 2:35 PM ET
 

Marlins-Phillies Preview

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Fatigue doesn't seem to be affecting the Philadelphia Phillies, who became the major leagues' first team to clinch a playoff spot with a win on the 17th consecutive day they took the field.

Rather than having a day off to celebrate, they get to play twice.

With a postseason berth wrapped up, the Phillies can close in on securing the NL East as they continue their grueling September slate Thursday by opening a 10-game homestand with a split doubleheader against the Florida Marlins.

Hurricane Irene cut what was supposed to be a three-game series between Philadelphia (95-51) and Florida at Citizens Bank Park from Aug. 26-28 down to a single contest. That set up a stretch of 32 games in 31 days for the Phillies to close the regular season beginning Aug. 29.

Just as the Phillies seemed to be hitting a rough patch, they came through Thursday. Roy Halladay snapped Philadelphia's three-game skid by going the distance in a 1-0, playoff-clinching victory at Houston.

The Phillies, who reduced their magic number to clinch the NL East to four, did little to acknowledge what's become commonplace for them - this will be their fifth consecutive postseason appearance.

"It's a great mentality to have,'' Halladay said. "There's business to be done and until that point, there's not a lot of celebration.''

The franchise record for wins (101) is squarely in sight, but getting a step closer to that in the opener could be difficult with Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 3.64 ERA) taking the ball for Florida (67-81).

The right-hander held the Phillies to two unearned runs over six innings Sept. 4 in a 5-4, 14-inning win, then threw an absolute gem Saturday at Pittsburgh. Sanchez pitched his second one-hitter of the season, striking out 11 Pirates in a 3-0 victory.

"Sanchez was in complete command," manager Jack McKeon told the Marlins' official website. "He pitches like he pitched (Saturday), he can beat anybody and he's proven that."

Sanchez, who has a 3.52 ERA but no decisions in four starts against the Phillies in 2011, may see Chase Utley back in Philadelphia's lineup.

The opener might be the ideal time for the second baseman to return after missing seven games with a concussion. He's 15 for 34 (.441) lifetime against Sanchez.

Kyle Kendrick (7-6, 3.29) counters for the Phillies, but could be a bit rusty after a stint on paternity leave. He hasn't pitched in a game since Aug. 24, and said he's "never gone this long without facing a hitter."

Kendrick is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his last five starts against the Marlins.

Should Florida lose the opener, it might have trouble avoiding a sweep with Cliff Lee on the hill for Philadelphia in the nightcap. Lee (16-7, 2.44) has a 0.49 ERA over his last seven starts, easily the majors' best mark since the beginning of August.

His latest outing was the only time since July 25 he didn't earn a win, but Philadelphia still wound up with a 3-2, 10-inning victory after the lefty held the Brewers to two runs - one earned - over seven.

Lee is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season, including a two-hitter at home June 16 - one of his major league-leading six shutouts. One more, and he'll become the first pitcher with seven shutouts since Los Angeles' Tim Belcher had eight in 1989.

Florida, which totaled two runs while dropping its last two games at Atlanta, could get an offensive boost. Left fielder Logan Morrison should play in one game Thursday after bruising his right knee Friday at Pittsburgh, when he went 4 for 6 with a homer.

Alex Sanabia (0-0, 0.00) pitched a scoreless inning of relief in that 13-4 rout - his first appearance in the majors this season - and he'll make his first start since last Sept. 27 in the nightcap.

Sanabia went 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 15 games - 12 starts - with the Marlins in 2010. He was 0-3 with a 7.89 ERA in four starts with Triple-A New Orleans after recovering from a sore right forearm.

The righty has never faced the Phillies, but he's looking forward to the challenge.

"It's a great place to pitch," Sanabia said of Citizens Bank Park. "They're not rooting for you, but you still get the adrenaline."

Tagged: Phillies, Marlins, Cliff Lee, Anibal Sanchez, Alex Sanabia

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