Dodgers seek to continue superb season against Marlins
MIAMI — The Miami Marlins are coming off a good week.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, meanwhile, are having a great season.
On Friday, the Dodgers, who have the best record in the majors at 61-29, visit the mediocre Marlins (41-46), who are in third place in the NL East.
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The past week has been good for the Marlins because they swept the San Francisco Giants in three games and then hosted the All-Star Game for the first time, and everything went off rather well.
But perspective on the sweep is needed: The Giants have the second-worst record in the majors. In addition, the Marlins are 10 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East and nine games back in the wild-card race.
The Dodgers could put a quick end to Miami’s modest win streak, which stands at just those three against the Giants.
The pressure is on the Marlins to come off the All-Star break hot because many of these Miami players could be traded if that does not happen.
“If we want to stay together, if we want to have a chance to not have a wasted year, this is huge,” Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton told the media after sweeping the Giants. “We have to have some jump in the second half … and see what happens.”
The Dodgers are under no such pressure. They will send right-hander Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 3.12 ERA) to the mound against Marlins right-hander Dan Straily.
The last time McCarthy faced the Marlins, he was outstanding, holding them to three hits, one walk and one run in six innings, earning the victory on May 21.
That continued a brief trend. In two career games against the Marlins, McCarthy is 2-0 with an 0.60 ERA.
Meanwhile, Straily (7-4, 3.31 ERA) is coming off one of his best performances ever. On July 7, he went a career-long 8 1/3 innings, defeating the Giants 6-1 and allowing just one run on four hits and no walks.
That continues a trend for Straily, who has a 2.95 ERA since the start of June. During that span, he has struck out 8.3 batters per every walk.
Straily is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in four career games against the Dodgers. But he beat them in his only appearance against them this year, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings at Dodger Stadium on May 20.
Friday’s game will likely feature some of the game’s best power hitters. Stanton is tied for the NL lead with 26 homers, and Dodgers rookie Clay Bellinger is third with 25 long balls.
The Marlins have two other sluggers with at least 20 homers. Left fielder Marcell Ozuna has 23 homes, and first baseman Justin Bour has 20. It is the first time in franchise history that the Marlins have three hitters with at least 20 homers by the All-Star break.
Ozuna is coming off a hot road trip with 16 RBIs, tying a club record.
The Marlins are catching a break this series because the Dodgers are resting ace Clayton Kershaw (14-2, 2.18 ERA). Kershaw will skip the Marlins series before returning.
“I just want to go out there and keep winning games,” Kershaw told the media right before the break.
In addition to not starting Kershaw, the Dodgers may be without catcher Yasmani Grandal, a former Miami Hurricanes star who has experienced swelling in his left hand.
Meanwhile, the Marlins could be getting shortstop Miguel Rojas off the disabled list. He has been out of the Marlins’ lineup since May 7 due to a broken right thumb but returned to minor league rehab games last week.
The slick-fielding Rojas would give the Marlins a boost since he was hitting .338 with a .789 OPS at the time of the injury. JT Riddle, the rookie who has assumed the starting shortstop job in Rojas’ absence, is hitting just .255 with a 652 OPS.
Still, even if Rojas returns, Miami will face a major challenge this weekend against the best team in baseball at the moment.
And, besides Los Angeles, the Marlins will also be cognizant of the July 31 trade deadline, which lurks in the background.
As Stanton pointed out, if the Marlins want to stay together as a team, they need to string together a substantial win streak, and they need to do so quickly.