The Marlins will start Mark Buehrle, who at 194 1/3 innings pitched this season is only 5 2/3 away from his 12th straight 200-inning season. Buehrle set the innings mark as a preseason goal for himself, and with the Marlins falling out of contention earlier than expected, 200 innings has taken on even greater importance for the 33-year-old left-hander, and the Marlins.
"He's very impressive," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "You look around him, and say, 'When are you going to break down?' He goes on and on. He reaches 200 innings. I think it was harder for him this year, because you pinch-hit in the National League."
For the season, Buehrle is 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA, but those numbers have fallen to 1-2 with a 5.20 ERA over four September starts. In his last start, against the Mets on Sept. 22, Buehrle allowed four runs on five hits over six innings of a 4-3 loss.
The Phillies, meanwhile, enter the series having dropped two of three games to the first-place Nationals. Looking toward next season, Philadelphia is considering playing second baseman Chase Utley at third base. Nothing about such a move has been announced, though the Phillies previously indicated that once they fell out of the playoff race, and if Utley was comfortable, the move could become a possibility.
Utley has taken ground balls at third prior to the last several games and could play the hot corner as early as Friday's opener in Miami.
"[Utley] looked pretty good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he's ready, he'll come and talk to me.
"I think that he reacts real well. When I see him throw, his arm's definitely strong enough. It's no problem. I think it's just a matter of what he wants to do."
Phillies: Lee takes mound looking to continue impressive September
With the Phillies battling injuries for much of a mostly underwhelming season, Cliff Lee hasn't always received the run support to which he's accustomed. The 34-year-old left-hander has pitched to a 3.18 ERA this year, but is only 6-8. In his last start on Sept. 23, Lee pitched eight innings and allowed only two runs (one earned) on nine hits, but took the loss as the Phillies fell to the Braves, 2-1.
But when Lee gets takes the mound for the first of a three-game set with the Marlins on Friday, he'll do so looking to continue a stretch of five September starts that have steadily lowered his ERA from 3.52. Lee is 3-1 this month with 0.99 ERA over 36 1/3 innings pitched.
Marlins: Stanton could return this weekend
Out since Sept. 16 with a sore left intercostal muscle, Giancarlo Stanton could return as early as Saturday against the Phillies. Miami has lost seven of the eight games without Stanton, who is leading the team in home runs (34), RBIs (81) and OPS (.949)
The Marlins are 7-8 against the Phillies this season and have lost five of the last six games against them.
The Phillies' bullpen is set to cap a remarkable second-half turnaround. After entering the All-Star break with a 4.76 ERA, Philadelphia's relievers have a 2.96 ERA in the second half, fourth best in the NL.