The Philadelphia Phillies came into the season believing they would contend in the NL East, while the Florida Marlins were looking to improve after a surprisingly strong 2006. Both teams are beginning to show signs of fulfilling those expectations.
The Phillies look to bounce back from their first loss in six games when they open a three-game series with the Marlins on Friday night.
Despite a 4-2 defeat to Washington on Thursday, Philadelphia (9-12) has started to turn its season around. The Phillies are 7-4 after losing eight of their first 10.
Philadelphia was confident entering the season, with Jimmy Rollins proclaiming in January the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East. Their play over the past two weeks suggests they should be able to do that.
“If you can win two out of three, two out of three, next thing you know, you’ll be over .500,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Philadelphia had just five hits Thursday after scoring 39 runs during its five-game winning streak. Aaron Rowand hit a solo shot to extend his career-best hitting streak to 14 games, during which he’s batting .415 (22-for-53) with four home runs and nine RBIs.
Freddy Garcia (1-1, 4.66 ERA) will take the mound for Philadelphia after earning his first National League victory in his last start, allowing two runs in five innings to beat Cincinnati 9-3 on Sunday. The right-hander, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in December, did not walk a batter in his second start since opening the season on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.
This will be Garcia’s first appearance against Florida.
Florida (10-11) has won four of five since a six-game losing streak, and seems ready to begin building on last season’s strong finish.
“Our confidence level is so high right now,” Marlins shortstop Alfredo Amezaga said after a 4-3 win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. “We’re in a tough division, but I think this game is going to help us battle with those teams.”
Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 4.15 ERA) will take the ball for Florida on Friday. The right-hander has started to settle down after a rough beginning, allowing three total earned runs in his last two outings.
Sanchez gave up three runs - two earned - and three hits in five innings to beat Washington 9-3 on Saturday night. He faced Philadelphia once as a rookie last year, giving up a career-high eight runs while walking six in an 11-5 loss July 30.
The Marlins are hoping first baseman Mike Jacobs (bruised right thumb) can return for this series. He was in the on-deck circle when Wednesday’s game ended.