MIAMI (AP) – No team is more excited to be done with June than the Miami Marlins.
The Philadelphia Phillies, though, could also make a case for that distinction.
The Marlins and Phillies both hope to get their seasons turned around in July, beginning in Sunday’s series finale in Miami.
After going 21-8 in May, best in the majors, and a franchise record for victories in any month, Miami (37-40) finished June a major league-worst 8-18, percentage points behind Philadelphia at 9-19. Much of the Marlins’ success came at the expense of the Phillies, as they won four of five June meetings – including the first two in this series. Miami is trying to win four straight for the first time since reeling off a season-best seven in a row from May 1-7.
Despite their recent push, the Marlins enter July 7 1/2 games back of NL East-leading Washington after being one-half game back at the start of June.
“We need to put this month in the past and take July on,” Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton said after homering and driving in two runs in Saturday’s 3-2 win.
Stanton is 7 for 14 with two homers and four RBIs in his last four games, and if the Marlins are going to make a playoff push they’re going to need him to continue his hot hitting.
Stanton, who could be named to his first All-Star team on Sunday, was named May’s player of the month after batting .343 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs, but hit .242 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in June. Miami is 19-10 when he drives in a run and 17-30 when he doesn’t.
The Phillies (36-44) have a bit more ground to make up in the standings, but better days could be ahead.
Chase Utley is 5 for 13 in four games since making his season debut following a knee injury, and both Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay could be back following the All-Star break. Philadelphia is 10 games back of the Nationals after being three out of first at the start of June.
“I think we can turn things around, but at the same time we’ve got to play a (heck) of a lot better,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We have to play over .600 baseball the rest of the way. I’ve seen us hit some big streaks, so it’s possible, but I think everybody has to get to get it going right now.”
To avoid the sweep, Manual will give the ball to Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.87 ERA), who allowed three runs and seven hits while matching a season high with eight strikeouts in Monday’s 8-3 win over Pittsburgh. The Phillies have won four straight behind Blanton, with the right-hander recording a 3.94 ERA while being backed by an 8.49 run support average.
His last loss came against the Marlins on June 3, when he gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings of a 5-1 defeat.
Miami counters with Ricky Nolasco (6-6, 4.78), who is winless in four starts since allowing four runs and eight hits in seven innings in a 5-4 victory in Philadelphia on June 2. At least Nolasco seemed to take a step forward against St. Louis on Monday, yielding an unearned run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-7, 10-inning loss. He had an 8.80 ERA in his previous three outings.
Utley is batting .313 in his career off Nolasco, but Carlos Ruiz is hitting .176 with no extra-base hits in 17 career at-bats against the right-hander.