Marlins Refuse to Flop Phils fall 1 1/2 games behind in wild card

Posted: September 18, 2003

The Phillies needed this one badly.

They need today's even more.

So that's where the Phillies are, right on the edge, after the Florida Marlins beat them, 11-4, last night at Veterans Stadium to drop them 1 1/2 games behind in the National League wild-card race, with Chicago and Los Angeles not far behind.

The Phillies need to beat Florida in the series finale this afternoon or they will fall 2 1/2 games behind with just nine to play.

"They're all big games right now," Phillies first baseman Jim Thome said. "You never want to say do-or-die because we still have a week and a half worth of games left. But any time you can play a team you can gain ground on, it's big."

A 2 1/2-game deficit would be tough to make up, since the Marlins would have three fewer losses than the Phillies with just 10 games to play.

"When you're in a race, it's a little harder to take," Phillies pitcher Brett Myers said. "We have to come out [today] and get that game back."

It became apparent early that last night wasn't a night for the Phillies.

It became clear on the mound:

Myers had been 9-1 in his last 17 starts and had not lost since Aug. 10. He also had not lost at home since June 6. So maybe Myers (14-8) was due. He allowed three runs in the first inning and three more in the fourth before he left the game.

"I thought I made some good pitches," Myers said. "But they put the bat on the ball and put the ball in play to give themselves a chance. I tried my best, but it didn't work out."

It became clear on the field:

Marlins leftfielder Jeff Conine killed potential Phillies rallies in the fifth and sixth innings. He robbed Thome of a double to left-center field in the fifth and threw out Mike Lieberthal, who had started the inning with a leadoff walk. Lieberthal was midway between second and third when Conine caught the ball.

Conine caught Ricky Ledee's fly ball in the sixth and easily threw out Jimmy Rollins at home to complete his second double play in as many innings. Rollins crashed into Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, but Rollins bounced off.

It became clear at the plate:

In Tuesday's 14-0 victory, Marlins centerfielder Juan Pierre and second baseman Luis Castillo - the top two hitters in the Florida lineup - went a combined 0 for 8. Last night, they went a combined 7 for 11 with five RBIs - Pierre had a career-high four RBIs - with three runs.

And it became clear in the ninth:

The Marlins had a 7-4 lead when Phillies reliever Valerio De Los Santos hit Juan Encarnacion with a pitch to lead off the inning. Plate umpire Lance Barksdale immediately warned both benches, which clearly befuddled Larry Bowa.

Bowa had some sharp words for Barksdale - the message being that Barksdale thought everybody had come to see him and not the two teams - and Barksdale quickly ejected him. It was Bowa's seventh ejection of the season.

"He made a point of being watched," Bowa said. "The strike zone was terrible. Then he issues a warning when a guy gets hit in the thigh. Let the players play, and let the game evolve around the players. It's not around the umpires.

"He said there was bad blood. That's the first I've known about it."

But besides all that, everything went great.

The Phillies looked as if they would work their magic again in the third when they tied the game, 3-3. Placido Polanco, who had missed 16 consecutive games with a deep bruise in his left quadriceps, made an immediate impact in his return with a one-out infield hit in the third. Lieberthal, who had a grand slam and six RBIs in Tuesday's victory, followed two batters later with a two-out double to right-center to score Polanco and make it 3-1.

Then Thome stepped in.

Thome hit a home run for the second straight night to ignite the energetic crowd. He hit a 3-2 pitch to left field off Mark Redman (13-9) for a two-run shot to tie the game. It was Thome's 42d homer of the year, which moved him into fourth place on the franchise's single-season list.

And for the second consecutive night, the crowd demanded a curtain call.

Thome accommodated.

But that would be one of the last times the 33,761 fans would cheer.

The Marlins made sure of that.

Contact staff writer Todd Zolecki at 215-854-4874 or tzolecki@phillynews.com.

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