Riding a four-game winning streak, the Philadelphia Phillies will hand the ball to a starter who still is looking for his first victory of the season to begin an inter-division series.
The Miami Marlins (10-8) come to town on Tuesday, fresh off a six-game West Coast swing that saw them go 3-3, including wins over the San Diego Padres and Saturday and Sunday to give them some positive vibes on a Monday off that both teams enjoyed.
“Any time you lose the first game and come back to win the series, it feels good,” Sunday’s starting pitcher Tom Koehler said to the Sun-Sentinel after a 7-3 victory.
“I love this team and it’s going to take wins like this and someone stepping up every night to get to where we want to get to.”
Manager Don Mattingly will turn to Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 3.94 ERA) to open the series, as the lefty takes the mound for the fourth time this season in hopes of keeping his slate clean for April.
Chen had his best start of the young season in his last trip to the mound, throwing seven innings of no-hit ball against Seattle, as 64 of his 100 pitches went for strikes. He’s doing all of this with a partial tear to his UCL, which he sustained last summer.
“With the tear in the ligament, it doesn’t really heal,” Chen told the Sun-Sentinel through translator Louis Chao after his last start. “It’s still there. It won’t heal. So I don’t really think about if it’ll get worse or not. I just think about with this, what treatment I should be getting.”
To counter, the Phillies (9-9) will send Vince Velasquez (0-2, 7.20), a flame-throwing right-hander who has given up at least three earned runs in each of his three starts.
His last time out was his most successful, going six innings against the Mets while giving up three runs and five hits, and he didn’t receive a decision the Phillies lost, 5-4.
But it was that sixth inning that cost Velasquez, giving up a three-run home run, spoiling what had otherwise been a solid outing.
“There’s a lot of positives out of this,” Velasquez said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Big adjustment. Big adjustment. I’m happy with my performance, but that should have been eliminated. That shouldn’t have happened.”
Since that loss, the Phillies ripped off a four wins, including a sweep of the Braves over the weekend. So far this season, they have played all but their opening three games against NL East opponents, going 8-7 in division play.
After this three-game series against Miami, they hit the road for three at Los Angeles and four at Chicago.
Velasquez is only one of several problems the Phillies are having with the starting rotation.
Clay Buchholz, on the 60-day disabled list thanks to flexor tendon surgery on his right forearm, probably is out for the season.
Aaron Nola, Wednesday’s previously projected starter, just landed on the disabled list because of a lower-back strain, although according to the Inquirer he is expected to miss only “one or two starts.”
The Phillies will have to make a roster move Tuesday or Wednesday to replace him in the rotation.