The Phillies' Cole Hamels takes the mound opposite Chris Volstad of the Marlins. The Marlins have lost nine out of their last 10 games, and Volstad himself has been saddled with three straight losses. Hamels on the other hand has been phenomenal over his last five starts posting a 4-0 record and a 1.70 ERA for the Phillies who currently have the best record in baseball (40-26).
On the offensive side of the ball, the highlight for tonight will be the highly-anticipated return of shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins' lineup.
Although Ramirez had been having an abnormally cold year batting only .210 with only four home runs through the 48 games he played in before his injury, the Marlins will need his big bat in the middle of the lineup to make up their 7.5 game deficit in the division.
To appreciate how substandard this is, consider that he has a career average of .307 and has averaged 26 home runs per 162 games. He has been named to the last three All-Star games and won a batting title in 2009 by batting .342!
Obviously, he is a great hitter and will make a quick impact.
For the Phillies, the key will be the bullpen. Although it has been heavily embattled by injury throughout the season, it seems as if the set-up combination of Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo has recently been able to deliver the ball to closer Ryan Madson with solid regularity.
Madson himself has been a pleasant surprise as he had had difficulty closing games in the past when staff injuries had forced him into that role. This year, he already has 15 saves and the rumor mill is already turning about whether or not Brad Lidge will even be able to return to his traditional role.
When the best team in baseball plays the coldest team in the National League, the results will probably favor the Phillies tonight as well as the series.