On Saturday, the Miami Marlins clinched their first full-season playoff berth since 2003. Just a day later, the Marlins clinched the fifth seed in the National League, setting up a best-of-three series against the Philadelphia Phillies, their longtime NL East rival.
Game 1: Tuesday, October 3 @ 8:08 pm on ESPN
In his last start against the Phillies, Luzardo went 6⅓ innings pitched, struck out nine, walked one and gave up two runs on four hits, with one of those being a solo home run to Edmundo Sosa.
“I think he always always had stuff,” said Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker in Monday’s press conference. “He knows how to execute pitches and I think that’s where the biggest growth with him throughout the season is and it’s continuing to happen. He’s pitched in some really big games for us and he’s come through. He’s earned this spot.”
Similar to Luzardo, Wheeler has also had a successful season, as he has a 3.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 9.94 K/9, 1.83 BB/9 in 192 innings. Although Luzardo’s walk rate is low, Wheeler’s is even lower this season. Amongst all Major League pitchers, Wheeler has the sixth-lowest BB/9, so that will present a challenge to the Marlins.
The last time Wheeler faced Miami, he went six innings, struck out four, walked one and gave up two runs on five hits. The two runs came on back-to-back home runs by Josh Bell and Jazz Chisholm Jr. Miami won the game, 9-8.
Game 2: Wednesday, October 4 @ 8:08 pm on ESPN
Southpaw Braxton Garrett will take the mound for the second game of the series. This season, Garrett has posted a 3.66 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 8.79 K/9, 1.63 BB/9 in 159 ⅔ innings pitched. Of the 47 pitchers that have thrown at least 150 innings this season, only three of them have a lower BB/9 than Garrett (George Kirby, Zach Eflin, and Logan Webb).
Just like Luzardo, Garrett is at a career high in innings pitched this season, but both have pitched well down the stretch, so although fatigue can be a factor for them, it hasn’t yet.
For the Phillies, pending free agent Aaron Nola will be showcasing to teams what he can do on the biggest stage. This season, Nola posted a 4.46 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 9.39 K/9, 2.09 BB/9 in 193 ⅔ innings pitched, a big drop-off from where he was the year before. Against the Marlins in 2023, Nola has an 0-2 record with a 6.75 ERA.
The Phillies are known for their slow starts, just like we saw this season, but as time went on, they began to heat up and earn the first Wild Card spot with 90 wins.
Lead-off hitter Kyle Schwarber is the first hitter that Jesús Luzardo will have to face on Tuesday. Don’t let his .197 batting average deceive you. This season, the Phillies slugger has hit 47 home runs along with 104 RBIs. In Citizens Bank Park—a hitter-friendly environment—Schwarber has been able to rely on his power.
Big ticket free agent signing Trea Turner struggled in the first half of 2023 with a .247/.299/.389/.688 slash line. His second half of the season is one to remember, though, as he slashed .292/.348/.554/.902 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs.
Although the Phillies shortstop suffered a left elbow contusion on Saturday, he should be good to go for Game 1. Turner, the former Washington National, has a large sample size against the Marlins (98 games played). That familiarity could be something to monitor throughout the series.
Bryce Harper was hurt to begin the season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he certainly made his mark when he came back from the injured list. This past year, Harper slashed .293/.401/.499/.900 with 21 home runs, 72 RBIs and a 142 wRC+. Just like Turner, Harper is a former Washington National, so he also has a lot of familiarity with Miami.
“It’s not talked about what he’s done,” said Schumaker regarding Harper. “To move to first base—one of the best players, if not the best player in the game coming off an injury—moving to first base for his team and doing what he’s doing over there. Just shows you exactly who he is. I don’t know him personally, but the amount of respect I have for him is huge.”
Another dangerous bat in the Phillies’ lineup is Nick Castellanos, who had himself an All-Star season after struggling in 2022. Only a home run shy of 30 with a wRC+ over 100 is exactly what the Phillies needed from Castellanos. What is most surprising is the fact that he did not commit a single error in right field this season.
Additional Phillies Notes
Third baseman Alec Bohm reached the 20 home run marker on the final day of the season. That 20th homer marked the first time in franchise history that the Phillies have had six players reach 20 or more home runs.
After posting an 84 wRC+ in 2022, Bryson Stott improved and finished 2022 with a 101 wRC+ and had 15 home runs. Defensively, Stott put up a seven DRS this season, three more than Luis Arráez who finished with a four.
Another fun storyline is the fact that Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto will face his former team in the postseason. Realmuto was with the Marlins through 2018 before being dealt to the Phillies in exchange for Sixto Sánchez, Jorge Alfaro and Will Stewart (all of whom are still in the Marlins organization, but not expected to contribute this postseason).
“There are still a few friendly faces over there that I got to know really well,” said Realmuto. “Couple friends I still have on the team, so it should be interesting and a lot of fun.”
Additional Marlins Notes
While the Marlins themselves have won just one postseason series over the last 20 years, the current roster includes veterans who became World Series champions elsewhere, such as Jorge Soler, Yuli Gurriel, Johnny Cueto and David Robertson.
Jorge Soler in particular has slashed .292/.418/.692/1.110 with six home runs and 11 RBI. He won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and then with the Atlanta Braves in 2021, when he was the World Series MVP.
Second baseman Luis Arráez is expected to be in the Game 1 starting lineup, according to Marlins manager Skip Schumaker.
Arráez, who is fresh off winning his second straight batting title ended the regular season slashing .354/.393/.469/.861 with 10 home runs, 69 RBIs and a 132 wRC+. Arráez finished the regular season with a strikeout rate of 5.5%, which was the lowest in all of Major League Baseball.
It’s unusual to make the playoffs with a negative run differential. The Marlins’ -55 mark is the lowest for a postseason team in MLB history. The last team to be below zero in that department was the 2005 San Diego Padres (-42).
Isaac Azout (@IsaacAzout) and Noah Berger (@Trainboy100) are on site to provide you with coverage of the NL Wild Card Series. Make sure to follow them as well as the coverage that we are providing here at Fish on First.