Ah, the joys of the major league schedule. After playing a day-night doubleheader in Minnesota on Thursday, in which the nightcap spun deep into extra innings and dragged on for more than five hours, the Los Angeles Dodgers were scheduled to fly through the night and play a Friday evening game in Miami.
Unlike most recent trips to South Florida, this one might not be a sub-tropical breeze. The Marlins are .500 and coming off a three-game sweep of the National League East’s first-place team, the Atlanta Braves.
The last time the Dodgers were in Miami, last August, they took three out of four as they gained firmer control of the NL West. It was also one of Yasiel Puig’s first brushes with authority. He told the Dodgers he got stuck in traffic after he violated a team rule by showing up late to the clubhouse before the second game of that series and was held out of the starting lineup. He would pinch-hit later in that contest and hit the decisive home run.
How the Dodgers’ pitching lines up could also contribute to the difficulty of the series, with Nos. 4 and 5 starters Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm scheduled for the first two games. It might be Maholm’s final turn in the rotation for a while, as he figures to get bumped when Clayton Kershaw comes off the disabled list Monday or Tuesday in Washington.
Sunday has the potential to be a memorable pitching matchup, with Hyun-Jin Ryu going for the Dodgers against the only pitcher in the National League who has been better than Zack Greinke so far, Jose Fernandez. The Dodgers are facing a tall task. In 19 career starts at Marlins Park, Fernandez is 12-0 with a 1.00 ERA.
Having incorporated a changeup, Fernandez (4-1, 1.59 ERA), the 2013 Rookie of the Year, has been virtually unhittable this season. He beat the Dodgers twice last year.
The Marlins thus far have had a better offense than the Dodgers. They’re second in the National League in runs and tied for second in OPS. Their pitching can’t quite measure up, but it has been at least respectable. They rank eighth in ERA and sixth in opponents’ batting average (.240).