For the Phillies, some must-win matchups are coming up

If the Phillies want to prove they can still rise to the occasion, Cole Hamels didn't exactly set the tone. (David Goldman/AP)

Last week, we wrote that the Phillies would soon have some pitching matchups that they'd need to take advantage of, and they did just that against mediocre righthanders Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner. On the surface, their series against the Marlins in Miami might not have much intrigue. But it could be a telling series for a couple of reasons. The first is that Roy Halladay pitches on Sunday against righthander Kevin Slowey. In Slowey's only outing against the Phillies, he allowed seven runs in under two innings of work. That was in 2010, the year Halladay won his National League Cy Young Award. The Phillies do not need Halladay to get back to that level in order to contend. But they do need him to be able to win starts against pitchers like Slowey. If the Phillies do not have a decisive advantage in this kind of matchup, it is going to be awfully tough to push 90 wins.

Tonight's matchup between John Lannan and Ricky Nolasco is a pretty even one.

Here are Nolasco's starts against the Phillies in 2011 and 2012.

  • -Sept. 29, 2012: 5 IP, 5 R/ER, 4 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR
  • -July 1, 2012: 7 IP, 2 R/ER, 6 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR
  • -June 2, 2012: 7 IP, 4 R/ER, 5 SO, 2 BB, 1 HR
  • -Sept. 3, 2011: 6 IP, 4 R/ER, 3 SO, 1 BB, 0 HR
  • -July 4, 2011: 7 IP, 1 R/ER, 4 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR
  • -May 11, 2011: 6.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR

Not bad, but given the state of the Marlins lineup, which has featured both Greg Dobbs and Placido Polanco batting cleanup, this is a game that John Lannan needs to win. Actually, on the whole, this is a series that the Phillies need to win. The Marlins figure to be one of the worst teams in a baseball this season. And for every game they lose against a team like that, that is one more win that they need against a better team.

In 2012, the Phillies went 39-43 against teams that finished the season at or above .500. They went 42-38 against teams that finished below .500. Included in that was an 8-10 record against the Mets, 3-3 against the Astros, 0-3 against the Blue Jays and 3-4 against the Pirates. This year, they absolutely need to handle those kinds of teams with regularity if they hope to get back to the postseason. Because thus far, good pitchers like Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Matt Harvey have had the edge.

The Phillies face a few such pitchers coming up, notably 20-year-old rookie Jose Fernandez on Saturday against Cole Hamels. Fernandez drew rave reviews for his major league debut last week. This is by no means a gimme for Hamels, who is looking to put a rought start behind him. Also on the horizon are Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, both of whom have given the Phillies plenty of trouble over the years.

The matchups:

Friday at Miami: John Lannan (LHP) vs. Ricky Nolasco (RHP)

Saturday at Miami: Cole Hamels (LHP) vs. Jose Fernandez (RHP)

Sunday at Miami: Roy Halladay (RHP) vs. Kevin Slowey (RHP)

Monday at Cincinnati: Cliff Lee (LHP) vs. Bronson Arroyo (RHP)

Tuesday at Cincinnati: Kyle Kendrick (RHP) vs. Homer Bailey (RHP)

Wednesday at Cincinnati: John Lannan (LHP) vs. Mike Leake (RHP)

Thursday vs. St. Louis: Cole Hamels (LHP) vs. Adam Wainwright (RHP)

Friday (4/19) vs. St. Louis: Roy Halladay (RHP) vs. Jaime Garcia (LHP)

Saturday (4/20) vs. St. Louis: Cliff Lee (RHP) vs. Lance Lynn (RHP)

Sunday (4/21) vs. St. Louis: Kyle Kendrick (RHP) vs. Jake Westbrook (RHP)

You can see why we said going into the season that Halladay was by far the team's biggest wildcard. If Lannan/Kendrick are toss-ups most starts and Hamels/Lee are advantages most starts, Halladay's matchups could very well tilt the balance one way or the other. Slowey is a must win. Garcia is much tougher. Should be an interesting week.