The Miami Marlins were hoping to remain in playoff contention long enough that Jose Fernandez might be able to put them over the top once he returned.
Instead, the banged-up club enters the second half with the majors’ third-worst record.
With Fernandez on the mound, the visiting Marlins aim to get off to a strong start Friday night against a Philadelphia Phillies team coming off the worst first half in franchise history.
Miami has been surprisingly bad, not an easy feat for a club that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003, and its 38-51 record is only better than Milwaukee (38-52) and Philadelphia (29-62).
The hole the Marlins dug is probably too deep to get back into the postseason race, and a surge this month is unlikely. All-Star Dee Gordon was placed on the disabled list Friday because of a dislocated left thumb, while MLB home run leader Giancarlo Stanton will be out another one to three weeks recovering from a broken left hand.
”It has been frustrating for all of us,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. ”We expected to put ourselves into position to play into October.”
Fernandez (2-0, 2.08 ERA) was supposed to be the midseason addition that helped them get there after sitting out the first three months recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The right-hander homered during a quality start in a 5-4 home win over San Francisco on July 2, then struck out nine over seven innings in a 2-0 win over visiting Cincinnati on July 9.
Miami closed out the first half by taking three of four from the Reds after a four-game road skid.
"When you have a true No. 1 like that, he can step up, slam the door and turn the tide," manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website.
The Marlins, 14-28 away from home, have outscored the Phillies 31-18 while taking four of the six meetings – including two of three in Philadelphia in April.
After going 1-0 with an 0.50 ERA in three starts versus Philadelphia as a rookie, Fernandez gave up six runs and eight hits while walking four over four innings in a 6-3 road loss in April 2014.
Freddy Galvis has gone 3 for 6 when facing Fernandez, though Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Ryan Howard are a combined 3 for 25.
Philadelphia, which has dropped five in a row, set the franchise record for the most losses before the All-Star break – surpassing its 61 in 1997.
"’We still have to go out and play hard, try to learn and hope things get better," Galvis said.
The Phillies will try to avoid a season-high fifth straight home loss behind Adam Morgan (1-2, 4.32).
The rookie left-hander looks to rebound from the worst of his first three starts, when he yielded five runs over four innings July 8 in a 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. He’s given up five home runs over 16 2-3 innings.
The Marlins own baseball’s third-best batting average (.273) when facing left-handers. Adeiny Hechavarria is batting .369 – fifth in the majors – in those matchups, and has gone 13 for 29 in his last seven games against Philadelphia.
Justin Bour hopes to pick up where he left off after going 5 for 8 with three doubles and five RBIs in the two games before the break.