Marlins ruin Phillies' home opener

Posted: April 10, 2012

The ballpark was funereal Monday, and Ryan Howard leaned against the railing, seven feet from the Phillies on-deck circle. It was the sixth inning, and a 6-2 Marlins victory in the 2012 opening of Citizens Bank Park was long decided. Charlie Manuel saw his sidelined slugger standing alone, arms crossed and his head resting on them. So the manager joined him.

An inning later, with the crack of a bat, both looked up. Now Manuel was closer to Howard, with his left foot on the warning-track dirt. They watched Omar Infante trot around the bases. They couldn't help but stare at the celebration in the Miami dugout.

"They're going to score a lot of runs," Manuel would say later.

Then it was back to reality without two superstars.

"We don't have a lot of power," Manuel said.

He could only look at Howard, the most painful reminder there is.

"It was good to see him," Manuel said, "but I couldn't put him in the lineup."

When Freddy Galvis knocked in both of the Phillies runs, Howard, bad Achilles and all, pulled himself above the railing and clapped. Galvis snapped a hitless streak of 12 at-bats with an opposite-field double for his first major-league hit. Howard pointed at Shane Victorino as he crossed home plate and directed him to retrieve the ball for Galvis to keep as a memento. "He's bringing that positive energy," Victorino said. "He's talking. It's great."

Howard removed his red jacket on two occasions Monday. He took ground balls without the use of a stool during batting practice, something he's done for a week now. Then he lightly jogged from the dugout to the first-base line for pregame introductions. The 205th consecutive sellout crowd cheered.

The Miami Marlins scored as many runs Monday as the Phillies had in their first three games combined. Infante, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound infielder, hit two home runs in the span of three innings. The Phillies have bashed one, a Hunter Pence solo shot Sunday, in 37 innings.

"We have Pence, of course," Manuel said. He rattled off more names. Ty Wigginton. Laynce Nix, too.

"He's hit some home runs," Manuel said. Only seven who ever played the game have hit more homers than Jim Thome, but he's 41 with a bad back. "We're taking him slow," Manuel said.

Howard clapped after David Herndon struck out a batter to end the top of the eighth. He picked up a stray ball in the dugout and started twirling it in his left hand. Placido Polanco flied out to right. Jimmy Rollins struck out. Pence lined one off the pitcher's glove, easily turned into the third out.

Howard bounced the ball off the rubber dugout floor.

"Do we miss guys?" Victorino said. "Yeah. It's the presence of having Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. They're still standing in the box. That's what is missing."

Cole Hamels faced two more batters in the sixth inning after he fielded a bunt and threw blindly to no one. The play was John Mayberry Jr.'s to make, Manuel said. It led to the fourth Marlins run. Mayberry has played 109 innings of first base in the majors. He was the fourth player in as many games to start at first in place of Howard for these Phillies.

"We go over that play sometimes," Manuel said. "That was a mistake."

The Phillies are 1-3. They have not been three games under .500 since May 13, 2007, and must win Wednesday to avoid that status. They have played 2.47 percent of their season.

Four teammates joined Howard on the railing in the ninth inning. Victorino took a slider for strike three. Mayberry grounded the second pitch to shortstop. Carlos Ruiz whiffed on a sinker.

Inside the clubhouse, Howard kicked off his shower sandals and slipped into a lime-green T-shirt and gray sweatpants. He pulled a gold chain over his head and put on diamond-studded earrings. He left the walking boot at the bottom of his locker and wore white sneakers.

He was bound for Baltimore on Tuesday. The doctor wants to see him. 


Contact Matt Gelb at  mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

|
|
|
|
|