After dropping their season-opening series to the Mets, the Florida Marlins have won three consecutive series (Nationals, Astros and Braves) en route to a 7-5 record and sole possession of second place in the NL East.
As luck would have it, they end their nine-game road trip this weekend at Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies without having to face either Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. If Marlins fans aren’t yet excited by the young Fish this early in the season, this series may be a unifying moment.
Too early, you say? Ask the San Diego Padres how they feel about losing the NL West on the last day of the season last year. Every game counts, and momentum is a key ingredient to success, especially for young teams like Florida. Before we get too excited about the absence of Halladay and Lee in the rotation, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels aren’t exactly BP pitchers. On top of that, Marlins ace Josh Johnson won’t be pitching either.
This very well could come down to a battle of the bullpens. Remember that big question mark coming out of spring training? After a horrible start in the opening series with the Mets, the bullpen has been dominant, allowing only four earned runs in the last nine games. The Fish currently have the second best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.16. The number-one team? The Phillies at 1.93.
Both bullpens have been a surprise, considering the Marlins’ off-season overhaul and Phillies’ closer-by-committee approach with Brad Lidge on the shelf. Brian Sanches – who almost didn’t make the opening-day roster – leads the way for Florida with 9.2 innings pitched, one hit and zero runs. Joining Sanches with an ERA of 0.00 is Mike Dunn, who has surrendered one hit and struck out seven in only 4.1 innings of work. Set-up man Clay Hensley is perfect in four hold attempts, and Leo Nunez is off to a fast start with four saves in as many chances.
For the Marlins to have a chance at sweeping the Phillies and moving into sole possession of first place (I won’t be holding my breath), they’ll need to get early leads and hold on. And if the Marlins can manage a series win in Philly, South Florida may have a reason to be excited after the Miami Heat’s NBA-playoff run is over.