New-look Marlins kick off Phillies home schedule

Well, the first series didn't go exactly as planned for the Phillies, but history tells us that the Phillies generally don't do well against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. So, after going 1-2 to start, the Phillies are hoping for a little home cooking.

The new-look Miami Marlins come into town off a deflating defeat. After finally picking up their first win of the season on Saturday, an 8-3 triumph over the Reds, the Marlins let one slip away to the Reds yesterday.

The personnel on the Marlins really hasn't changed much when you look at the lineup. Hanley Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio, Logan Morrison, Giancarlo Stanton (last year known by the name Mike Stanton), Gaby Sanchez and even Greg Dobbs are back. The newest addition to the lineup is the lead-off man, Jose Reyes. The free-agent shortstop signed with Miami this offseason, and instantly gave the Marlins a new speed threat atop the lineup.

Meanwhile, the pitching rotation has taken a complete overhaul. And while the Phillies are familiar with two of the starters they will see in this series, they get a fresh face in the finale. Plus, if any game reaches a save situation, there's a new closer in Miami, and even though he's fresh off a blown save and a loss, he'll be getting the call again when the situation arises. Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle are these two news arms, and there's a good chance the Phillies will see them both this series.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

In the opener, Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79 ERA in 2011) goes against Anibal Sanchez (8-9, 3.67 ERA in 2011) – Hamels makes his season debut in the home opener, and while all eyes are on him off the field, there is plenty to watch out for on the field. Which every season, the expectations for Hamels grow higher. Last season, he came within a win of tying his career high. This season, is expected to beat that. In his career against the Marlins (19 starts), Hamels is 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA.

Sanchez has been hit or miss against the Phillies, but with the way the Phillies offense is, usually Sanchez keeps the Marlins in the ballgame. This is his season debut, but he is more than used to this group of Phillies by now. In his career against the Phillies (16 starts), Sanchez is 3-8 with a 5.09 ERA.

In the middle game, Roy Halladay (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces Josh Johnson (0-1, 4.50 ERA) – Halladay pitched a gem in the Phillies' Opening Day win against the Pirates last Thursday. He was nearly on pace to finish the game himself, but gave way to Jonathan Papelbon for the save. In his career against the Marlins (10 starts), Halladay is 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA.

Johnson lost his last start, allowing three runs on ten hits in an Opening Day loss to the Cardinals. Anytime you see the names Halladay and Johnson in the same sentence, especially when it involves a start, it is highly anticipated. This should be a classic, especially when you remember a past start between the two, back in 2010. It was May 29, and Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game that night. In his career against the Phillies (14 games, 12 starts), Johnson is 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA.

In the finale, Joe Blanton (0-1, 13.50 ERA) makes his first start of the season against Mark Buehrle (0-1, 3.00 ERA) – Blanton is making his first start of the season after suffering the loss to the Pirates on Saturday. Last season, Blanton went 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA before suffering an injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season. In his career against the Marlins (9 starts), Blanton is 6-2 with a 3.33 ERA.

Buehrle has rarely started against the Phillies, pitching in the American League for many years, but in signing with the Marlins has entered into the National League life. He lost his first start, allowing two runs on seven hits over six innings. In his career against the Phillies (3 starts), Buehrle is 3-0 with a 5.06 ERA.

April 9 – Phillies 3, Marlins 2
April 11 – Phillies 2, Marlins 4
April 12 – Phillies 5, Marlins 4

This series is one that is very unpredictable. Mainly that's because this offense is so hard to predict. I like the pitching for the Phillies in this series, but I also like the pitching for the Marlins. The Phillies have the edge in the opener because it is their first home game and they will have the home crowd backing them up. Having Cole Hamels pitching against the Marlins fifth starter will help.

The next two games are ones that could go either way. After Roy Halladay's Opening Day dominance, it's hard to pick against him. But with Josh Johnson pitching, and the offense being the way it has this weekend, I can't see the Phillies coming away with a win.

The Phillies seem to score based on the way their pitcher's ability seems to stack up. Basically that means with their fifth starter pitching in the finale, expect more than one run. The scoring won't be astronomical, but it will be better, and that should help the Phillies win. But don't expect an easy win, even with Blanton's track record against the Marlins. If the opening series against the Pirates told you anything, it's that wins aren't going to come without a little drama and a few close calls this season.

The Phillies remain home after this series with the Marlins to face the Mets before embarking on a 10-game road trip that passes through San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona.

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

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