Marlins-Phillies preview

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is looking forward to Monday's series-opening game against the Miami Marlins. And it's not just because he wants to quickly forget about Sunday's 5-0 shutout loss Jacob deGrom and the Mets.

Mackanin will finally get to see struggling pitcher Aaron Nola return to the mound for the first time since July 2. It will be 16 days since Nola was on the mound in a game when he throws the first pitch Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. He will oppose Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez.

The Phillies (43-50) elected to give Nola, their young, right-handed ace, extra rest heading into the All-Star break after the worst stretch of his young major-league career. He will return to the mound having given up at least four runs in five consecutive starts. In four of those starts, he failed to get out of the fourth inning.

In total, the damage was 27 earned runs in 18 innings pitched. This after posting a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts of the season. His ERA now sits at 4.69.

“He's ready to go,” Mackanin said. “He had a good side and he's anxious to get back out there. He's a competitor and he doesn't want to sit. I'm anxious to see him.”

Nola, 23, threw a simulated game last Saturday.

“I don't really think it's a mental break,” Nola told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Mentally, I feel fine. I just felt like the past month, I struggled. The ball was up. It wasn't where it should be. When you're elevating balls and not getting ahead of guys, they make you pay for it. That was the main part.”

Nola and the Phillies, though, face a daunting task against Fernandez, 23, who is trending in the opposite direction, save for a rare dud on July 2. Fernandez is 11-4 with a 2.52 ERA. He has amassed 154 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings pitched.

Fresh off his second All-Star appearance, Fernandez, in his first full year since Tommy John surgery, is having his best season. His strikeout rate of 12.91 per nine innings leads the league by plenty. His 154 strikeouts before the break are a Marlins record.

“I think it's just making pitches and not trying to make pitches,” Fernandez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel before heading to San Diego for the All-Star Game. “When the catcher calls a fastball away, it doesn't have to be 100 (mph), it can be 93 — just down in the zone. I feel like I'm getting a lot better results like that.”

The results, right now, are much better than Nola's.

The Marlins (49-42) finished off a series win in St. Louis with a 6-3 win Sunday. They head to Philly for a four-game set.