Preview: Marlins send Wei-Yin Chen to the mound to begin final series before All-Star break
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
After all, the Phillies (52-40) are in first place in the National League East and the Marlins (39-56) are last in the same division.
Further, the Phillies on Friday will be throwing veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 and a World Series title with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
The Marlins will counter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (2-6, 6.14 ERA), who has been one of the biggest flops in baseball in the third season of a five-year, $80 million contract.
But a deeper dive into the numbers gives the Marlins hope as it pertains to Friday’s opener of a three-game series.
For starters, while the Marlins rested Thursday, the Phillies had to play at the New York Mets on Wednesday and then at the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. The Phillies beat the Orioles 5-4, but they still figure to be a road-weary team on Friday when they play in their third city in three nights.
Also, while Chen has been truly awful on the road this year with a 10.47 ERA that is the worst in the majors, he has been remarkably good at home. His home ERA of 1.89 is the ninth best in the majors this year among pitchers with at least 30 innings in their own stadiums.
Further, while Arrieta has been solid overall this season with a 6-6 record and a 3.47 ERA, he has struggled in two starts against the Marlins. His numbers against the Marlins read like this: 7 2/3 innings, 9.39 ERA.
From a team standpoint, the Marlins are coming off a series in which they took two of three games from the Milwaukee Brewers, who have the best record in the NL.
Moreover, the Marlins — since April 23 — are much improved with a 34-40 record during that span, roughly half a season in which they have played close to .500 ball. And while that may not be overly impressive, it paints this young Marlins team as something other than the disaster they were supposed to be when the front office engineered yet another sell-off this past offseason.
“You feel this team has gained an identity of how we play,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We are getting hits, moving runners, running the bases aggressively and pitching pretty well. That’s our game.”
The Marlins on Friday will also get their lone All-Star — catcher J.T. Realmuto — back from a three-game paternity leave.
In addition, the Marlins have standouts such as right fielder Brian Anderson, who has 105 hits and is batting .288. Not since Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 has a rookie had that many hits before the All-Star Game.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have a lineup that is led by, among others, outfielder Rhys Hoskins, who hit 18 homers in 50 games last year in his first season in the majors.
Hoskins, 25, has fallen a bit from that impressive homer rate but has gone deep 14 times in 83 games.
In addition, Hoskins on Wednesday was selected to compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby.
“It was a definite yes,” Hoskins said when asked by the media what his reaction was when asked to compete. “It’s too cool of an opportunity to say no.”