The Miami Marlins will try their hand at a second straight series win tonight as they face the Chicago Cubs in a three-game set to wrap up their home stand. The Fish send their staff ace for a third go-around, hoping for better results than in the past, while the Cubs counter with a former Marlin whom Fish fans of the early 2000's should recall. Meanwhile, hovering around all of this is the fact that the Marlins' estranged manager, Ozzie Guillen, will be returning to the field for the first time after his five-game suspension. A lot of things are happening around tonight's first game of a three-game series.Pitching Matchup
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Tonight's pitching matchup will pit the Marlins' Josh Johnson with former Marlin Ryan Dempster. Johnson has struggled in his first two starts, as clearly evident by his 8.38 ERA. And do not let his 2.78 FIP (versus a projected 2.55 FIP for the rest of the year) fool you into thinking it is all merely bad luck. Johnson has yet to allow a home run this season, but his pitches have all appeared very hittable and, should he continue to pitch this way, it is only a matter of time until he allows another long ball. The most telling problem for Johnson right now is his distinct lack of swings and misses; he has only induced swinging strikes on just four percent of his pitches this year compared to a career 9.6 percent rate.
The Cubs counter with Dempster, who was the top Marlins starter in 2000 and was one of the better players on the early 2000's teams. Of course, he was eventually traded to Cincinnati and then Chicago, where he has carved out a nice career as a closer and then a return to starting. Dempster is looking to rebound from a poor 2011 in which his peripherals were as good as ever (3.91 FIP compared to a 3.99 FIP in 2010) but his ERA was awful (4.80 ERA).
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The Fish will likely once again run the team's best starting lineup, though again not in its most optimized order. Omar Infante, who has started this season red-hot, will probably bat fifth again in favor of Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, both of whom have struggled to start the year but are still likely better hitters than Infante. I appreciate a good hot start as much as anyone else, but Infante still projects as a .284/.327/.405 hitter going forward. Now, this hot start has clearly improved the projections for him in the future, which is a good thing for the Marlins, as they are looking for offense wherever they can get it. If Infante can hit closer to his 2009 or 2010 form than his 2011 season, it would be excellent. Just do not expect a lot more of the current 2012 model.
- As mentioned before, Ozzie Guillen will be returning to the dugout after a five-game suspension following his comments regarding Fidel Castro. Guillen and the Marlins are expecting the return to go smoothly, but expect a little bit of resistance from Cuban protestors. I say a little, because even though I think there will always be a group against Guillen, it apparently seems as though the barriers are falling as the elderly of the Cuban population begin to give way to a new generation separated from the scars of surviving Castro's communism.
- Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue brought up the idea of extending star shortstop Starlin Castro, and BCB did not think it was feasible. With Madison Bumgarner's recent extension, Yellon thinks it's even more possible.
Bold Prediction: Marlins def. Cubs 4-3