Not long ago the Marlins were maybe the biggest disappointments in baseball. Now they're playing up to expectations as they open a three-game home series with the Phillies on Friday. Miami is a -153 favorite on MLB odds for Game 1 with a total of 8.
What You Need To Know
A little less than two weeks ago, I previewed a Marlins game. They were 3-11 and last in the NL East. There were reports from the south Florida media that Manager Mike Redmond was on the hot seat and in fact Redmond met with owner Jeffrey Loria, who didn't endorse his manager at the time. That seemed a bit ominous. Perhaps that woke up the players as since then the Marlins have won seven of eight and taken series from the Phillies, Nationals (sweep) and first-place Mets; and you might want to keep this in mind when looking at the MLB odds.
Miami's success has come without one of its key franchise cornerstones. Outfielder Christian Yelich, who not long ago got a nearly $50 million extension, has been on the disabled list since April 20 with what was called a lower-back strain. It has since been revealed to be a bulging disc problem. Thus Yelich could be out longer than the 15 days. He had struggled this season with a .200 average and four RBIs. It's a good thing the Marlins signed 41-year-old free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki this offseason. He has been decent in Yelich's place and his hitting .263 with a homer and five RBIs. The Marlins also made a surprising decision Monday when they activated catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the paternity leave list but then designated him for assignment. Saltalamacchia was only hitting .069 but I say surprise because he was in the second year of a three-year, $21 million contract. That's a lot of money to eat, especially on a guy who was a pretty decent player as recently as 2013. The Marlins may find a trade partner but they still will have to eat most of that contract.
What's there to say about the Phillies? They enter having lost three straight in St. Louis and are in their expected last-place spot in the NL East. Philadelphia is dead last in the majors in runs and probably will stay there if you have seen that lineup. This was the fourth straight year that the Phillies had a losing record in April but first with only single-digit wins since 2002.
?The Phillies start right-hander Jerome Williams (2-1, 3.80). He has won two straight starts. The first of those was April 21 at home against these Marlins, allowing two earned runs and eight hits over six innings, striking out six and walking one. Then last time out, also at home, against Atlanta, Williams went a season-high 6.2 innings and allowed three runs and eight hits. It was his first start this season without allowing a home run. It should be noted that his one road start this year was ugly (five runs, 10 hits allowed in five innings at the Mets). Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton is 2-for-3 career off Williams with a solohomer. Stanton started the season slowly but is rolling now, with 10 hits in his past 28 at-bats, three homers, nine RBIs and eight runs scored. Ichiro is 4-for-18 career off Williams with three RBIs. The Phillies are 5-1 at sportsbooks in Williams' past six as an underdog.
Tom Koehler (2-2, 4.50) gets the call for Miami. He had his best start of the season last time out, shutting out Washington on six hits with four strikeouts and one walk over 7.1 innings, the fourth-longest start of his career. Koehler had been shelled the start before that. He hasn't faced the Phillies this season. He was 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts (25.0 innings) against them in 2014. Chase Utley is 5-for-13 with two doubles and three RBIs career off Koehler. Ben Revere is 8-for-16. Carlos Ruiz is 3-for-8 with a double and five RBIs. The Marlins are 3-7 in Koehler's past 10 series-opening starts.
MLB Free Picks: Take the Marlins and the 'under' with your MLB picks. Miami has won six of the past eight meetings at home. The Phillies are 2-9 in their past 11 as a road dog. The 'under' is 11-5 in the Marlins' past 16 at home vs. a right-handed starter.