Zack Wheeler on the mound as Phillies face NL East nemesis Marlins

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Wheeler on the mound as banged-up Phillies return home to face NL East nemesis originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Coming off an eventful, nine-game road trip in which they went 4-5 and had several important players bounced from the lineup with injuries, the Phillies return home on Tuesday night to open a six-game homestand, three with the Miami Marlins followed by three against the Boston Red Sox.

Citizens Bank Park will be a welcome sight for the Phillies. They are 13-6 at home as opposed to 8-14 on the road.

The Marlins come to Philadelphia on the final leg of a long-distance, 10-game trip that has included previous stops in Arizona and Los Angeles. Miami is 3-4 on the trip and 18-22 overall, fourth place in the NL East but just 3½ games behind the first-place New York Mets in the tight division.

The Phillies, despite waves of injuries, terrible defense, poor performance at the back end of the starting rotation and strikeout-fueled offensive inconsistency, are 21-20 and in second place in the division, a game out of first.

The Phillies have the longest postseason drought in the NL, nine seasons. They may have made the postseason with a better showing against the Marlins last season.

Miami, despite being hit hard by COVID-19 and debuting 18 players in the majors, won seven of 10 meetings against the Phillies last season. The Marlins ended up passing the Phillies in the standings and ultimately making the playoffs when they took five of seven from the Phils in Miami in mid-September.

Over the last two seasons, the Phils are 12-17 against Miami.

Health has become a major issue for the Phillies. Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius are all nursing nagging injuries. Gregorius has not played four games in a row because he has, in his words, “a huge bump,” on the outside of his elbow. He was to undergo tests Monday. It’s possible he could end up on the injured list. Harper has a sore shoulder but was able to take swings when the Phillies ran out of players in Sunday’s loss to Toronto. Realmuto has a sore left hand/wrist. Updates are expected on both players before the game.

Updates are also expected on Scott Kingery, who is in concussion protocol, and reliever JoJo Romero, who is out with an elbow injury.

On the plus side of the health issue, Archie Bradley, the team’s signature offseason bullpen acquisition, is expected to be activated from the injured list after missing more than a month with an oblique injury.

The Marlins, of course, have some players with Phillies roots. Catcher Jorge Alfaro and fireballing pitcher Sixto Sanchez were both traded to the Marlins in the Realmuto deal. Alfaro, however, is on the injured list and Sanchez has yet to appear in a big-league game this season as he builds shoulder strength. Outfielder Starling Marte is also on the IL.

Zack Wheeler, who closed out the previous homestand with a shutout of Milwaukee, gets the ball for the Phillies in Tuesday night’s opener. He is 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA. The Marlins had not yet announced their starter.

Zach Eflin (2-2, 3.86) and Vince Velasquez (1-0, 3.68) will pitch Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, against lefty Trevor Rogers (5-2, 1.84) and right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-3, 4.06).

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