The return of Hanley Ramirez couldn't lift the Florida Marlins out of their slump, which began when the shortstop was placed on the disabled list in May. A doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies likely won't make things any easier.
Struggling Florida faces NL East-leading Philadelphia in a day-night twinbill Wednesday, with the nightcap featuring two of the league's top pitchers.
Ramirez went 0 for 4 on Tuesday in the Marlins' 9-1 loss to the Phillies after sitting out the last 14 games with a lower left back strain. It was the 14th loss in 16 games for Florida (32-34), and Ramirez's average dipped to .205 - well off his .307 lifetime mark.
''We thought we might get going on the road,'' catcher John Buck said. ''But nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We just have to grind it out.''
The Marlins will have an opportunity in the first game to gain some much-needed confidence before facing Phillies ace Roy Halladay (9-3, 2.39 ERA), who has been on a tear of late.
Halladay is 4-0 with a 2.75 ERA in his last five starts after pitching seven scoreless innings Friday in a 7-5 win against the Chicago Cubs. It marked the first time since April 7 he didn't allow a run.
The right-hander lost to Florida on May 10, though he gave up only one earned run in eight innings. He's 4-3 with a 2.13 ERA and eight career starts versus the Marlins.
Anibal Sanchez (6-1, 3.06) has been just as hot as Halladay and hasn't lost since April 10. He allowed three runs and stuck out eight in 6 2-3 innings Friday in a victory against Arizona. He has a 2.52 ERA with 78 strikeouts over 75 innings in 11 starts since his last defeat.
Sanchez's most recent victory is Florida's lone win this month.
The Phillies (41-26) hit a season-high five home runs Tuesday, which may not bode well for Sanchez. He's 3-7 with a 5.65 ERA in 12 lifetime starts versus Philadelphia.
The Phillies' 1-4 hitters - Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard - went a combined 8 for 15 with three walks in the victory. Rollins, Utley and Howard each hit two-run homers, and Domonic Brown added a pair of solo shots.
''Probably the best we've hit all year,'' manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Phillies have scored 27 runs over their four-game winning streak after scoring three or fewer in eight of their previous nine.
A hot-hitting Philadelphia team also may not bode well for Florida's Game 1 starter, Elih Villanueva, who is making his major league debut.
The right-hander, who went 4-5 with a 5.23 ERA for Triple-A New Orleans, pitched six scoreless innings Thursday in his most recent minor league outing.
Villanueva will oppose Kyle Kendrick (3-4, 3.47), making his third straight start after pitching most of the season in relief. He's 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his four previous starts and left Thursday's outing against the Cubs due to an extended rain delay after pitching three scoreless innings.
Kendrick's last victory came as a reliever May 11 against the Marlins when he pitched a scoreless eighth inning. His last start against Florida came Aug. 4, when he gave up two runs in six innings of his 7-2 victory.
The Phillies have won five of the last six meetings in Philadelphia.