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Marlins hope to heat up again vs. Phillies

MIAMI -- The Washington Nationals just took a giant hose and cooled off the Miami Marlins, figuratively speaking.

Now, the Marlins (66-66) return home, damaged from a three-game sweep but still in the chase for the second and final National League wild-card spot, currently held by the Colorado Rockies.

"We were overmatched today," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of the Nationals. "We got buzz-sawed. Let's move on."

Indeed, the Marlins, who had won four straight games before heading to Washington, will host the Philadelphia Phillies (49-83) on Thursday in the first of a four-game series.

The Phillies, who were swept in a doubleheader by the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, have the worst record in the majors.

Miami will start right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (0-1, 3.70 ERA), who has impressed Mattingly this season by making 11 appearances, including two starts. He also has one save.

"He's really valuable because he can do a lot of things," Mattingly told the media on Wednesday. "He's been our long guy. He's also a guy who can step in and start, and he has also closed a game for us.

"I think the main thing is that he's rubber-armed. He can pitch almost every day as long as he's not throwing too many pitches.

"If you have a couple of guys like that, it helps you over the course of the season, protecting guys."

Despaigne, a 27-year-old native of Cuba, has tended to wear down over a long season. For his career, he has a 3.92 ERA in 34 first-half games and a 5.56 ERA in 46 second-half games.

This will be Despaigne's first start against the Phillies, although he has an 8.44 ERA in three relief appearances against the guys from the City of Brotherly Love.

Despaigne will be opposed by Phillies right-hander Ben Lively (1-5, 4.36) who has pitched better than his record since making his major league debut on June 3. He had a 3.70 ERA in his first eight starts before slipping his last time out, allowing six runs in five innings.

Even so, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is a big Lively fan.

"From his first pitch in the majors, he's pitched like he belongs," Mackanin said. "He shows no fear."

The Phillies are just 2-7 when Lively starts, but they have scored two or less runs in five of his appearances. Lively, who has yet to face Miami, has made six quality starts.

"I love going deep in games," Lively told the media earlier this season. "Once I get past six innings, I find another gear, and I say, 'Let's go!'"

Lively, who averages just 4.9 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings, pitches to contact, which can be scary when facing Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors with 51 homers and hits more 100 mph shots than anyone in baseball.

But it's not just Stanton. Marlins All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna has emerged this year with a .308 batting average, 31 homers and 103 RBI. Stanton has 110 RBI.

The Phillies also have a red-hot slugger in Rhys Hoskins, a rookie who belted 11 homers in his first 20 major league games. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games in Wednesday's doubleheader.

Hoskins surely can't keep up that home run pace -- he hit those 11 bombs in a 14-game stretch -- but tremendous power has been predicted since last year. That is when he hit 38 homers in 135 Double-A games.

Now he's feasting on big-league pitching.

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