In crowded division, Phillies and Marlins meet

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The Phillies took two of three games from the Marlins in their first meeting at Citizens Bank Park in April. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)

When you look at the NL East, considering the state of the Phillies this season, you may be surpised at the standings. This is as good a logjam as any. Five teams separated by three games.

The Phillies are still in last place. But they are only three games behind in the division.

The Marlins are a red-hot baseball team. They went 21-8 in May to put themselves just a half a game behind the Nationals for the division lead. 

The Marlins are led by Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the team with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. Right behind him is Hanley Ramirez, who has eight home runs and 33 RBIs. 

Of the rest of the Marlins lineup, Chris Coghlan, Greg Dobbs, Logan Morrison and John Buck all have double-digit RBI totals. Speed threat Emilio Bonifacio may be on the DL, but at the top of the lineup is Jose Reyes, who can make quite a bit happen on the basepaths.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series.

In the opener, Kyle Kendrick (1-4, 4.10 ERA) goes against Mark Buehrle (5-4, 3.26 ERA) – Kendrick's last start was the best of his career. He pitched his first complete-game shutout against the Cardinals last Saturday. In his career against the Marlins (16 games, 11 starts), Kendrick is 7-2 with a 4.39 ERA.

Buehrle is coming off a win against the Giants where he allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings. Buehrle lost a start against the Phillies on April 12, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Since the end of April, Buehrle has won four of his last five starts. In his career against the Phillies (four starts), Buehrle is 3-1 with a 4.88 ERA.

In the middle game, Cole Hamels (8-1, 2.43 ERA) faces Ricky Nolasco (5-3, 4.26 ERA) – Hamels has continued to win start after start, doing it again on Monday against the Mets despite having one of his worst outing of the season, allowing four runs in eight innings. Hamels only loss of the season came on April 9 to the Marlins, where he allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings. In his career against the Marlins (20 starts), Hamels is 6-8 with a 3.51 ERA.

Nolasco lost his last start against the Giants allowing three runs over seven innings. Nolasco was one of the few Marlins who didn't have a great May. He has lost three of his last four starts. In his career against the Phillies (15 games, 12 starts), Nolasco is 6-4 with a 3.55 ERA.

In the finale, Joe Blanton (4-5, 5.05 ERA) gets the start against Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.00 ERA) – Blanton's struggles continued in his last start, allowing six runs over five innings to the Mets. It was Blanton's third straight start allowing six or more runs. Blanton's first start of the season was on April 12 against the Marlins. He allowed one run in seven innings in a winning effort. In his career against the Marlins (10 starts), Blanton is 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA.

Zambrano won his last start against the Nationals allowing three runs over six innings. Zambrano was winless into May before going 3-1 in the month. In his career against the Phillies (10 games, nine starts), Zambrano is 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA.

Prediction:
June 1 – Phillies 2, Marlins 3
June 2 – Phillies 4, Marlins 1
June 3 – Phillies 4, Marlins 6

The Phillies have a lot of things going against them this weekend. The Marlins come into the series on a hot streak that has lasted the course of a month. The pitching matchups may favor the Marlins. For this team, everything is clicking, and that means bad things for the Phillies.

Every single one of these three games is up for grabs. The Phillies have some favorable pitching matchups as well. Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton both have excellent track records against the Marlins and are facing pitchers that don't quite have the same kind of success. Buehrle has it on a limited basis, with minimal starts. Zambrano doesn't have the same success.

It's hard to pick against Cole Hamels, who is arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the moment. But remember this is the only team that can claim to beating him this season. Will things change this time? That remains to be seen.

Still, three exciting games appear to be awaiting Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park this weekend. Hopefully celebration awaits at the end of all of them.

The Phillies continue this homestand with a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers following this weekend series with the Marlins. They then hit the road for two interleague series against the Orioles and Twins.

Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.