The Miami Marlins are not playing like a team trying to keep their faint National League wild-card hopes alive as they visit the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday in the finale of a three-game series.
Miami (73-75), which is 6-9 in September, dropped the first two games of the series to fall six games behind the New York Mets and San Francisco (79-65) with St. Louis (77-71) and Pittsburgh (74-74) also in pursuit.
Philadelphia (67-82) exploded for an 8-0 victory Saturday — their highest run total since a 10-6 win over Colorado on Aug. 12.
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Center fielder Odubel Herrera is one of a handful of young players giving the Phillies hope for the future as he is 10-for-20 in his last five games after going 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored Saturday, raising his average to .283.
“We were hoping that he would turn it around,” Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin, who moved Herrera into the No. 3 spot in the order, told reporters. “He just kind of lost focus for some reason, started coming out of his comfort zone and started swinging at too many pitches, expanding the strike zone. But he looks much better right now. Hopefully he'll finish strong and be confident going into next year.”
Another Phillie to watch down the stretch is first baseman Tommy Joseph, who belted his 20th home run Saturday to become the first Philadelphia rookie since Ryan Howard in 2005 to reach that number.
Only Willie Montanez (30 in 1971), Dick Allen (29, 1964), Howard (22) and Scott Rolen (21, 1997) hit more home runs in their rookie seasons with the Phillies.
“It's cool,” Joseph said. “This time last year, a lot of people had given up on my future. To be sitting here a year later with 20 homers in the show, it's a pretty special feeling.”
Sunday's pitching matchup pits the Marlins' Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.22 ERA) against the Phillies' Alec Asher (1-0, 1.46).
Cashner is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 games (five starts) versus Philadelphia after a 6-0 victory Sept. 7 when he matched a season high with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. It was his first victory in nine games (eight starts) with Miami after losing his first four decisions since arriving via trade from San Diego in July.
The 30-year-old right-hander struggles with A.J. Ellis (7-for-18), who delivered a three-run double Saturday.
Asher, a late-season call-up in each of his two major league seasons, received a no-decision after allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings of the Phillies' 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He recorded his only major league victory by allowing two hits in six shutout innings of a 4-1 victory in Washington on Sept. 8.
The 24-year-old right-hander made two of his seven starts last season against the Marlins, losing both after allowing four runs in a combined nine innings.
Miami can win its first season series against Philadelphia since 2008 with a victory Sunday. The series is tied 9-9.