We now know who’ll be the first victims of Citizens Bank Park this postseason.
For a few weeks, a match-up with the Chicago Cubs felt inevitable. Then, over the most recent stretch, the Arizona Diamondbacks seemed most likely. But in the end, one of the Phillies’ divisional rivals, the Miami Marlins, completed their surprise season and jumped into position.
Miami will come to Philadelphia for one of the National League’s two best-of-three wild card match-ups, starting on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET.
These are two teams that know each other well, but as a catchup and for any Red October newbies — welcome! — here’s what you need to know to sound smart about this match-up,
(If you’re an audio fan, we discussed all of these on our Phillies Playoff Preview episode of Hittin’ Season.)
Marlins won the season series, but maybe shouldn’t have
The Phils and Fish played each other four times encompassing 13 games this season, with Miami winning three of the four series, including both in Philadelphia.
In all, the Phillies went 6-7 against Miami, but outscored them 64-55, indicating the Phils probably should have won a couple more games than they did.
They’re lefty-heavy, which could spell trouble for Phils’ left-handed hitters
Miami’s best two starters, Jesus Luzardo and Braxton Garrett, are both left-handed, and Miami went 4-0 in the games those pitchers started against the Phillies, although neither pitcher was lights out.
In his two starts against the Phillies, Luzardo had a 3.65 ERA (pretty good), while Garrett gave up six runs in 10 innings for a 5.40 ERA (not that great).
Miami’s four most used pitchers out of the bullpen are also left-handed, meaning it could be tough sledding for Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, and Bryson Stott in this series. All those southpaws will likely be a big factor into the next item on this list.
You may not see Brandon Marsh all that much
Despite being one of the team’s most consistent performers in 2023, Marsh may not play much in Games 1 or 2, if at all.
Marsh has struggled against lefties this season (.221 batting average), which means Christian Pache or Weston Wilson could be in the starting lineup in left field in those games. Does Marsh’s playoff pedigree and experience trump those struggles? That’s what Rob Thomson will have to figure out.
The Marlins’ NL batting champion may not play
Luis Arraez, who just won this season’s National League batting title, is an incredible hitter.
He finished the season with the highest batting average in the National League (.354), one year after doing the same thing in the American League with the Minnesota Twins. He’s just one of two players in the modern era (aka since 1901) to win the title in each league, and is far and away Miami’s most dangerous hitter.
He’s only seen one at-bat since Sept. 24 due to a lingering ankle injury. He did appear as a pinch hitter over the weekend, and it appears he’s getting closer to returning, so don’t be surprised to see him in the starting lineup for Game 1, even if it’s in the DH spot.
Miami is offensively challenged
The Marlins scored the fifth-fewest runs in baseball this year, and are tied for 22nd out of 30 in home runs. Since acquiring Jake Burger and Phillie-killer Josh Bell at the trade deadline, they’ve been better, ranking 22nd in runs scored and tied for 14th in homers.
Still, they have just one player who has slugged more than 20 bombs this year (Jorge Soler, 36), while the Phillies have six such players for the first time in franchise history (Schwarber, Castellanos, Turner, Harper, Realmuto and Bohm).
The Marlins are led by a rookie manager
A long-time player for the Cardinals, Skip Schumaker took over for Don Mattingly this off-season and turned around a Marlins franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs during a full season since they won the World Series in 2003 (they did reach in pandemic-shortened 2020, when half of all MLB teams were admitted into the tournament).
Schumacher has pushed all the right buttons, and the good vibe coming from the clubhouse is largely attributable to him. However, this will be his first time in the meat grinder of a postseason, so we’ll see how he does.
Miami likes comeback wins, too
The Phillies had 44 comeback wins this season, third-most in baseball behind only Baltimore and Cincinnati (48).
But Miami was no slouch in this department, tallying 41 comeback victories, tied for seventh-most. The pitching staff usually keeps games close, as evidenced by…
The Marlins went 33-13 in one-run games this year, the seventh-best winning percentage in MLB history.
That record certainly should give them confidence in high leverage situations but, of course, things are different in Philly come playoff-time.
Miami was outscored by a staggering 56 runs this season, the largest negative run differential for any postseason team in MLB history. But going 7-3 in extra inning games helped keep that from becoming devastating. Is it repeatable in the playoffs?
The Marlins are going to discover what it’s like to play at Citizens Bank Park in the postseason, and I don’t think they’re going to like what they find.
I expect Zack Wheeler to dominate in Game 1, followed by another solid Aaron Nola start in Game 2. The Phils’ bats will be just fine against the Marlins’ lefties, and I’m expecting a big Trea Turner series in this one.
Phillies sweep in 2.