Hanley Ramirez is batting .197 with no home runs. Logan Morrison is on the DL and outfielder Chris Coghlan has a sore right shoulder.
Yet the 15-8 Florida Marlins are right there with Philadelphia in the National East Division, trailing the first-place Phillies by half-a-game. The Marlins have the third-best record in the National League thanks to a 3.06 team ERA, which is the fourth-lowest in baseball.
But the Marlins could be headed for a fall following a 7-2 homestand that concluded this past Wednesday.
Florida was idle Thursday but now heads out for a seven-game road trip beginning Friday night at 4:10 (PT) against Cincinnati. The Marlins play the Reds three times before embarking to St. Louis for four games.
The Marlins have lost in 14 of their last 17 visits to Cincinnati, including getting swept at Great American Ball Park in three meetings last year.
The Reds, who also were idle Thursday, are 13-12 after winning the National League Central Division last season.
Sparked by reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto, the Reds rank No. 2 in the majors in runs scored averaging 5.2 per game. Cincinnati also has smacked 31 homers, which currently rates as the third-highest in the league.
Votto has reached safely in all 25 of Cincinnati’s games. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is the only other player to have reached base safely in every game. Votto currently has the fifth-highest batting average in the majors at .379.
The Marlins are getting excellent pitching performances from Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and their bullpen.
Unfortunately for Florida, Javier Vazquez is slated to start Friday’s series-opener. Vazquez’s fastball is down from previous seasons, which is a factor in why he’s 1-2 with a 6.52 ERA.
The 34-year-old right-hander’s strikeout rate is much lower than in past seasons. He has given up 16 walks compared to 11 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.
Vazquez had his first quality start of the season during his last outing, a 3-1 home loss to Colorado as a ‘pick’ versus Jason Hammel. The combined four runs went ‘under’ the 8 ½-run total. Vazquez allowed three runs on four hits in six innings with five walks and five strikeouts.
He is 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in two road starts. He’s 4-1 lifetime against Cincinnati, but with a 4.29 ERA. Vazquez had his highest ERA of his 12-year big league career last year with the New York Yankees at 5.32.
Red starter Travis Wood is 1-2 with a hefty ERA, too, at 5.40. The 24-year-old left-hander, though, has a lot of promise. Although his ERA is high, Wood’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is 24-to-seven.
Wood gave up three runs in his last start this past Saturday in a 5-3 victory against St. Louis and Chris Carpenter. Wood, who was a 150 road ‘dog, didn’t factor in the decision after allowing eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk in 6 1/3 innings. The combined eight runs just went ‘over’ the 7 ½-run total.
Cincinnati is 2-8 in Wood’s last 10 games. The Marlins are 37-18 the past 55 times they’ve faced a southpaw. Florida may be without the right-handed hitting Coghlan, the team’s second-leading batter at .297 and Florida’s RBI leader with 16.
Coghlan had to exit Florida’s last game this past Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth inning because of soreness in his right shoulder. The shoulder bothered Coghlan for much of spring training.
The ‘under’ has cashed in 12 of the Marlins’ last 14 road contests. The ‘under’ is 5-1-1 during the last seven times the Marlins have played the Reds in Cincinnati.
The weather forecast is for temperatures in the low 60s with a very slight crosswind and a 20 percent chance of rain.