After 1-4 road trip, Marlins welcome Phillies for home opener

The first home game of the season is usually a festive occasion, but enthusiasm from Miami Marlins fans may be dampened a bit on Thursday night as the Philadelphia Phillies visit.

That’s because the Marlins — who had the fourth-worst record in the National League last season — are already in last place. They return home after dropping four of five games in California.

Three of Miami’s losses were by one run, and two of them were walk-off wins by their opponents.

On Thursday, the Marlins will start right-hander Sandy Alcantara (0-0, 3.60 ERA), who was wild in his Opening Day start against the San Francisco Giants, walking five batters in five innings.

Alcantara, 26, is 5-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 10 career starts against the Phillies. Last year, he went 1-3 against Philadelphia with a 3.68 ERA in four starts.

In 38 career starts at home, Alcantara is 8-17 with a 3.29 ERA.

The consistent trend with Alcantara is a lack of run support. The Marlins tried to address that in the offseason by acquiring outfielders Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler.

Those two players combined to slug 56 homers and drive in 156 runs last year. So far this season, they have no homers and no RBIs in 32 combined at-bats. Soler is hitting .158. Garcia, batting .154, has a back injury and has missed two straight games.

“Our guys haven’t really gotten going yet, but it’s early,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Over the course of the year, they will get going.”

The Marlins have been led so far by third baseman Joey Wendle, who is batting .455, and center fielder Jesus Sanchez and second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., who are tied for the team lead with two homers each. Chisholm also leads the club with five RBIs.

Philadelphia, off to a 3-3 start, will counter Alcantara with 34-year-old right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Gibson was brilliant on Saturday in a 4-2 win over the Oakland A’s. In seven innings, he allowed just two hits, no walks and no runs, striking out 10 batters. At one point, he retired 14 consecutive batters, and he also struck out the side in the third inning on just 12 pitches.

“When the wind is blowing out in a certain way, it adds a little extra run to my changeup and sinker,” Gibson said.

However, against the Marlins, Gibson is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in one career appearance.

The Phillies entered the season with concerns about their defense and bullpen, and neither problem appears to have been solved.

The defense is off to a slow start, ranking last in the majors in fielding percentage. Third baseman Alec Bohm made three errors in a Monday win over the New York Mets.

Philadelphia’s bullpen had a 7.06 ERA in 2020 — the highest in the majors in 90 years. Last year, Phillies relievers tied a major record with 34 blown saves.

This season, the bullpen — headed by Corey Knebel — appeared to be improved. Knebel, Brad Hand, Nick Nelson and Jeurys Familia are all new to the Philadelphia relief corps this year.

However, in a 9-6 loss to the Mets on Wednesday, none of those relievers pitched, and the Phillies’ bullpen allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings.

On offense, the Phillies are one of the most dangerous teams in the majors, led by reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper as well as Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Kyle Schwarber and Didi Gregorius.

However, second baseman Jean Segura exited the Wednesday game after getting hit in the left forearm by a pitch. He is questionable for Thursday.

–Field Level Media