With their MVP candidate most likely done for the season and a losing streak standing at three games, the Miami Marlins' chances at making the postseason are diminishing.
While the Marlins can take comfort in Giancarlo Stanton saying he is "much better" after a scary injury, they'll need to solve Philadelphia right-hander Kyle Kendrick to end their brief skid Saturday night in the second of a three-game set against the Phillies.Stanton, who leads the NL with 37 homers and 105 RBIs, sustained facial fractures and other injuries when he was hit in the face by an 88 mph fastball from Mike Fiers in Milwaukee on Thursday. After leaving the field in an ambulance, Stanton took to Twitter on Friday, saying "I'm much better today & deeply appreciate your prayers!"Playing without their star slugger later that night in the opener of this series, Miami lost 3-1 when Cody Asche hit a walkoff homer in the 10th for the Phillies (68-79).The good news is that Stanton, a two-time All-Star, probably won't need major surgery. He received dental treatment in Miami and the club hasn't ruled out a return this season.Ed Lucas played right field Friday night in Stanton's place and had two hits, but committed a costly error."It's a huge loss," manager Mike Redmond said of Stanton. "Not only is he a huge part of the team, but it changes the whole lineup. It is what it is. That's the situation we're in. We're a resilient team."Resilience will indeed be the key in the closing weeks for the Marlins (71-75), who are 6 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the league's second wild-card spot with 16 games left and have three other teams battling them in that race.The upcoming task for Miami will be reversing its fortunes against Kendrick (8-12, 4.83 ERA), who came into this year with an 11-2 record and 3.32 ERA over 16 starts in the rivalry. Kendrick has started three times against the Marlins in 2014 and pitched well twice while failing to earn a decision, though he was tagged for six runs in the other.The irony of Kendrick's dominance over the Marlins ahead of this matchup is that he's limited Stanton to three hits in 26 at-bats. Those who remain in Miami's lineup in the wake of Stanton's injury have actually done well against Kendrick. Christian Yelich, Casey McGehee, Garret Jones and Marcell Ozuna are a combined 19 for 56 (.339).Taking the hill for Miami will be Brand Hand (3-6, 4.45), who ended a three-start losing streak with six innings in a 4-0 win over Atlanta on Sunday. He had allowed 14 earned runs over 16 innings during the skid.Hand is 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies after allowing three runs and seven hits over five innings in Miami's 5-4 home loss July 3.He'll try to help the Marlins avoid dropping a fourth straight game for the first time since a six-game losing streak July 9-19 that bridged the All-Star break.Philadelphia, which came into this series having lost three of four to the Pirates to open a seven-game homestand, improved to 10-10 in extra-inning games with Friday's win."It was an exciting finish," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It goes a long way with the guys in the clubhouse."Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed his fourth straight game since straining his left hamstring Monday.
Brad Hand has thrown 27.2 percent of his curveballs this year on the inner half of the plate, the fifth most among pitchers. The Phillies have a .141 batting average in at bats that end in curveballs on the inner half, which is the second-lowest average in baseball this year.