Series Preview: Florida Marlins @ Tampa Bay Rays

And so our biggest, most heated rivalry of the season finally gets going. Let the steel cage, Florida death match begin!

Friday, June 11 (7:05 PM): RHP Anibal Sanchez vs. RHP James Shields

Saturday, June 12 (7:05 PM): RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. RHP Matt Garza

Sunday, June 13 (1:40 PM): RHP Chris Volstad vs. RHP Jeff Niemann

In all seriousness, I'm pretty indifferent to the whole interleague play thing. Do I find it novel? Not particularly. Do I hate it with a passion? Also not particularly. It's just there, kind of like the All Star Game. Sure, it creates unequal schedules by imposing "rivalries" on certain teams, but why get all worked up about interleague play when there are far worse schedule-related travesties to fix first?

Interleague disclaimer aside, this series has me excited for two reasons: young pitching and Mike Stanton. The Marlins have a pretty uninspiring offense (currently 20th in the majors with a .326 Weighted On-Base Average) that's fueled almost entirely by Hanley Ramirez (.363 wOBA) and Dan Uggla (.378 wOBA), but their pitching staff is fun to watch. Thankfully we don't have to face Josh Johnson in this series, who has pitched like the ace he is this season, but we do face some interesting young arms in Anibal Sanchez (3.12 Fielding Independent Pitching), Ricky Nolasco (4.18 FIP), and Chris Volstad (4.42 FIP).  Of these three pitchers, Sanchez has been the best this season, but Nolasco has the potential to be dominant based upon his performance last season (9.49 K/9, 3.35 FIP). His strikeouts have vanished this season (6.54 K/9), leading Mike Axisa at FanGraphs to suggest the problem lies in Nolasco's slower and straighter splitter.

If you need a reason to be excited about watching Mike Stanton play, just look at his numbers in Double-A this season. 21 homeruns in 189 at bats. 1.173 OPS. Oh, and he's 20 years old. He's no Stephen Strasburg or Jason Heyward, but he's a special rookie for sure.

The Rays have the advantage on paper in this series, so here's hoping our starters pitch as well as they're capable.

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