The Philadelphia Phillies and the host Miami Marlins will play the middle game of a rare seven-game series on Saturday night.
This is the longest regular-season series in the majors in 53 years. It’s the first Phillies seven-game series in 90 years, and it’s the first one ever for the Marlins.
For Miami, this is also the start of a season-high, 15-game homestand. So far, the Marlins (21-20) lead the series two games to one. They also trail the Phillies (22-20) by a half-game in the battle for second place in the NL East, a position that comes with an automatic playoff berth.
Saturday’s pitching matchup features a pair of right-handers, Miami’s Jose Urena (0-0, 5.40 ERA) and Philadelphia rookie Spencer Howard (1-2, 5.66).
Howard, who was Philadelphia’s second-round pick in 2017 and made his major league debut on Aug. 9, has struggled with his mechanics, and that has caused some dips in his velocity. He has allowed five homers and 28 hits in five starts and 20 2/3 innings.
The Phillies are 2-3 when starting Howard, who has yet to pitch past five innings. He has never faced the Marlins.
Howard is starting on Saturday in what had been Zack Wheeler’s turn. Wheeler, who is 4-0 with a 2.47 ERA, ripped a fingernail on his middle finger on Friday while putting on his pants.
“It’s just one of those stupid things,” said Wheeler, whose middle finger is swollen. “I tripped, I lost my balance, and my jeans yanked out of my hand.”
He wasn’t sure when he will be able to pitch again.
“We’ll see how the soreness goes, and see how this thing starts healing up,” Wheeler said.
Urena, who will be pitching on his 29th birthday, is 3-5 with a 4.27 ERA in 17 career appearances against the Phillies, including 12 starts.
Overall, he is 32-43 with a 4.57 ERA since breaking into the majors in 2015. His best season was 2017, when he went 14-7 with a career-best 3.82 ERA. The 14 wins are also his career high.
Since then, however, Urena is 13-22.
Urena will have to be wary of Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm, who was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft and got just 165 minor league games before he was summoned to the majors on Aug. 13.
Bohm, 24, is batting .323 with seven doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs in 27 games after collecting four hits in the Friday doubleheader.
“He’s playing awesome baseball,” Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin said of Bohm.
The Friday twin bill showcased the Marlins’ typical resilience this season. After losing the first game 11-0, Miami came back to win the nightcap 5-3.
“Every time it looks like our guys will fade,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “they show up and put up a ‘W’ and keep going.”
Catcher Jorge Alfaro is one of the hottest Marlins batters. The former Phillies catcher has produced four straight multiple-RBI games. He has 10 RBIs on the season, but eight in his past four games.
The Marlins are 4-10 at Marlins Park this season, which is the worst home record in the majors. However, Miami is 2-1 at home in the current series, offering some hope for improvement on the marathon homestand.
–Field Level Media