Marlins host Phillies looking for first win of homestand
MIAMI -- One week ago, Miami had the eyes of the baseball world as Marlins Park hosted the Home Run Derby and then the All-Star Game.
One week later, relatively few will be focused on the Magic City as the dreary Miami Marlins (41-49) get set to host the worst team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies (30-60).
The Marlins are, so far, winless on their homestand after getting swept in three games by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend.
"Get ready," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said when asked about his team's attitude for the upcoming series. "We have to rebound."
The Phillies, at least, are coming off a win, beating the host Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 on Sunday to salvage the finale of a three-game series. Rookie right fielder Nick Williams hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning to lead the Phillies.
"Any win is a good win for us to get," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
The Marlins will start right-hander Tom Koehler on Monday. Koehler, who is 1-4 with an 8.00 ERA, was demoted to the minors at one point this season.
That was a large fall from grace for a previously steady pitcher who won a total of 30 games the three prior years -- 10 in 2014, 11 in 2015 and nine in 2016.
This year, Koehler has fallen apart. He has a 7.43 ERA on the road and is even worse at home (8.84). His ERA in May was 10.13; he did not pitch in the majors last month, and he owns a 13.50 ERA in July.
Koehler has not faced the Phillies this year but is 4-4 with a 3.43 ERA against them in his career. Last year, Koehler was excellent against Philadelphia, going 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA.
He would love to regain that form on Monday against his counterpart Jerad Eickhoff, a Phillies right-hander who will be making his second start since coming off the disabled list due to a back injury.
Eickhoff (1-7, 4.63) pitched five scoreless innings, striking out eight batters, in his most recent start, July 9 against the San Diego Padres.
The Phillies are hoping for more of the same against Miami, a team he has beaten just twice in five career decisions. His ERA against the Marlins is 3.30, which is better than his 3.74 career ERA.
In a way, Koehler, 31, versus Eickhoff, 26, will be a battle between two pitchers who have lost their way. Eickhoff won 11 games for a poor Phillies team last year. Koehler has slipped even further into the abyss.
Beyond that lackluster pitching matchup, the Monday game will be played against the backdrop of the looming July 31 trade deadline -- just two weeks away.
The Phillies have some interesting players to trade, a list that includes All-Star setup reliever Pat Neshek and infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, who is batting .349 with an .879 on-base-plus slugging percentage. Kendrick is on the disabled list due to a left hamstring injury.
Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who will be a free agent after this season, may have some value as a starting pitcher, but he has not lived up to expectations this year.
The Phillies may also look to trade first baseman Tommy Joseph to open up a spot for top prospect Rhys Hoskins.
Meanwhile, the Marlins are reportedly in talks to deal closer A.J. Ramos and setup reliever David Phelps. Third baseman Martin Prado is a candidate to go, but his contract may be tougher to move given his lack of productivity this season in the first year of a three-year, $40 million deal.
The Marlins would get a lot back if they decided to trade All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna, whom they maintain is off the table. Second baseman Dee Gordon, who has underperformed, could get traded with the Marlins plugging in Miguel Rojas at his spot.
In the end, the Monday game won't mean much in the standings, but the intrigue figures to mount as the trade deadline approaches.
Updated July 17, 2017