Phillies Series Preview: at Miami Marlins

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Jul 22, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Fans cheer on Miami Marlins pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki (not pictured) as he warms up from the on deck circle during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Fans cheer on Miami Marlins pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki (not pictured) as he warms up from the on deck circle during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jul 22, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Fans cheer on Miami Marlins pinch hitter Suzuki (not pictured) as he warms up from the on deck circle during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Fans cheer on Miami Marlins pinch hitter Suzuki (not pictured) as he warms up from the on deck circle during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies move their long road trip down to Marlins Park in South Florida where they will take on the hot host Miami Marlins.

The Phillies travel south to the controlled weather inside of Marlins Park, a retractable roof stadium, to take on the NL East Division rival Miami Marlins in a three game series.

The first two games against the hot Fish are evening 7:10pm affairs, while the Wednesday afternoon finale has a scheduled start time at 12:10pm.

An interesting wrinkle on this series developed over this past weekend. While the Phils were losing two of three in Pittsburgh, the Marlins lost one of their key starting pitchers, lefty Wei-Yin Chen, to injury.

The Marlins were already considered to be an active team in trade discussions to upgrade their rotation as next week’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline drew closer. Now those considerations are much more important to Miami.

A check of the National League standings shows that the Marlins currently control the second NL Wildcard berth with a 53-45 record. That mark puts them a half-game up on the division rival New York Mets, with the Saint Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates also within a couple of games.

The Marlins are also still very much alive in the NL East Division race, trailing the pace-setting Washington Nationals by only 4.5 games.

That has led to what appears to be more than mere speculation that the Phillies and Marlins have become deeply involved in trade discussions involving right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who is perhaps the Phillies most valuable and obvious trade chip.

The speculation that broke yesterday, fueled by the below tweet from MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, had the Phillies scouting the lower levels of the Marlins minor league system.

The Miami system is considered one of the weakest in baseball at this point, so to see Matt Klentak looking at their younger prospects for greater upset is wholly appropriate.

Hellickson is scheduled to go in the series opener for the Phillies. Would the two teams pull a deal, or come close enough today that would put off that start? It will be interesting to see if he does indeed take the hill this evening in a Phils uniform.

Related Story: HELLICKSON TO MARLINS TALK HEATS UP

Whenever he does make his next start, there is a reasonable chance  it will be the last or next-to-last of Hellickson’s Phillies career. He would be next scheduled to go over next weekend in Atlanta, which would be his final start before the deadline.

The Hellickson trade speculation aside, this will be the 11th meeting between the two teams already this season, with both sides owning five victories thus far. They will meet back here in Miami again in early September, and then one final time in South Philly in mid-September.

As always, the Fish offense is led by fearsome 26-year old slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The dominating winner of this year’s MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby has a team-high 21 longballs and 55 RBI on the year.

Joining him in a productive young outfield are fellow NL All-Star, 25-year old Marcel Ozuna, who has a .296/.350/.508 slash line with 17 homers, 52 RBI, and a team-high 55 runs scored, in center field and 24-year old left fielder Christian Yelich, who owns a .325/.399/.499 slash with 54 RBI and 51 runs scored.

Another interesting factor in the Marlins outfield is 42-year old future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, who no longer is in an everyday starting role, but who sits just four hits shy of the 3,000 mark for his MLB career. Whether Ichiro will see enough plate appearances in this series to reach that mark is questionable.

The Phillies get a big break by missing Marlins pitching ace Jose Fernandez. The NL All-Star could arguably be called the best pitcher in the game right now.

When Miami skipper Don Mattingly goes to his bullpen he has a pair of NL All-Stars at the back-end in closer A.J. Ramos and new setup man Fernando Rodney.

Also pitching well out of the Fish bullpen are righties David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough, Nick Wittgren, and Dustin McGowan. The lefties are veterans Mike Dunn and Craig Breslow.

Next: PITCHING MATCHUPS

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