Right-hander Spencer Howard will start on Thursday afternoon as the Philadelphia Phillies visit the Miami Marlins in the finale of this four-game series.
The Marlins, who posted their second win in the series after Wednesday night’s 4-2 victory, will counter with right-hander Pablo Lopez (1-3, 2.73 ERA).
Howard (0-1, 7.36) is set to make his eighth career start. He has only faced the Marlins once, and it happened in his final 2020 appearance — a 12-6 Phillies win on Sept. 12.
In that game, Howard fell into what has become a familiar pattern. He pitched three scoreless and hitless innings and got two quick outs in the fourth before he ran into major trouble. He allowed a single, a walk and a three-run homer, which brought the end to Howard’s performance.
In his brief major league career, Howard has a 1.29 ERA in the first inning and a 0.00 ERA in the second. However, after that, his ERA skyrockets to 10.29 in the third, 9.64 in the fourth, 20.25 in the fifth and 9.00 in the sixth.
Howard followed that pattern again in his most recent start last week, striking out five Boston Red Sox batters in the first two innings — both scoreless. His fastball ranged from 95.3 mph to 97.3 mph.
However, in the third and final inning, his velocity slipped to a range between 92.9 and 94.5 mph. He also lost his command as Boston scored two runs on three walks, one wild pitch, an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
“We’ve seen it before,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said of Howard’s velocity drop. “We’ve talked about it (with Howard). He has a history of this.”
Howard, who has had shoulder issues the past two seasons, is healthy, Girardi said.
Even so, Howard will likely be on a pitch count on Thursday, probably around 75.
Meanwhile, the Marlins will start a much more established pitcher in Lopez, who has 52 career starts. Lopez has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts this season.
In fact, he has held opponents to zero earned runs five times this season, including his most recent start last week against the New York Mets. In that game, Lopez held New York scoreless for seven innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out eight.
“I wanted to be efficient,” Lopez said after that 90-pitch performance.
Lopez has faced the Phillies four times, going 1-1 with a 3.91 ERA. He has yet to face them this year.
At home against all teams, Lopez is 7-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 27 career starts. This year, he has been even better at home in five games, sporting an 0.61 ERA despite an 0-2 record.
Beyond the starting pitchers, both the Marlins and Phillies are dealing with injuries to key hitters.
For Miami, third baseman Brian Anderson (shoulder) and center fielder Starling Marte (rib) are on the injured list. Second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. (ankle) and right fielder Garrett Cooper (undisclosed) were held out of Wednesday’s lineup.
The Phillies are without right fielder Bryce Harper (forearm) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (hand), who are considered their top two players. Shortstop Didi Gregorius (elbow) is also out.
Jean Segura and Brad Miller — batting .318 and .319, respectively — lead Philadelphia’s current lineup.
Miami is led by Jesus Aguilera recorded his National League-leading 36th RBI on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media