On the heels of one of the most complete losses the Marlins have suffered this season, they will take to the field again tonight against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the hopes of taking the second game of a four-game set. The Fish will have a tough task ahead of them, as they face the D'backs most potent pitcher, but the club will fire back with yet another starter who has started off successfully for the team in 2012. The real question, as it has been for the past week and a half, will be whether the Marlins can muster enough offense to make this game a competition, as the team has sputtered offensively for the past week.
This may be the premier pitching matchup of the series. Anibal Sanchez has been lights out in three starts this season. He has maintained his strikeout touch (23.8 percent strikeout rate) while walking fewer hitters than last year (5.0 percent walk rate compared to 7.7 percent in 2011). The fact that he has given up two home runs is, oddly enough, a good thing; it means that these excellent numbers are not buoyed by deflated home run numbers and are thus more repeatable than expected. So far, Sanchez's SIERA (Skill-Independent ERA) and xFIP (FIP with a fly ball component and regressed HR/FB rates rather than a home run component) are very similar to his ERA and FIP, indicating a potentially neutral amount of luck. There is no question about it: Sanchez has pitched well in 2012.
He will face off against the Diamondbacks' ace, Ian Kennedy. Two years ago, he was a part of a meager package the Diamondbacks received in return for trading another group of pitchers headlined by the promising fireballer Max Scherzer in a three-team deal involving the Tigers and Yankees. Hindsight is 20/20, and this deal looks like a steal in hindsight for Arizona, as they have received a top-notch starter and Edwin Jackson, whom they flipped to the Chicago White Sox for their second-best starter Daniel Hudson. The scary part for the Marlins against Kennedy? Despite his good strikeout numbers (20.6 percent career strikeout rate), he is a soft-tosser who has averaged a tick under 90 mph on his fastball for his career. Given what little the Marlins have done against soft-tossers in the past, this cannot bode well.
This blogger will be out to a non-baseball related event by the time this post comes up, so I will not be able to post the lineup today. I encourage one of you excellent Fish Stripers to post the official lineup when it comes up so everyone can use that information to guide their Ichthyomancy picks.
Bold Prediction: Diamondbacks def. Marlins 3-0