Phillies bullpen can't hold up

Posted: September 20, 2013

THE FLAGS that sat at half-staff at Citizens Bank Park were motionless most of evening last night, but a crisp air that descended on the 10-year-old ballpark earlier this week stuck around anyway, bringing a feel of postseason baseball to South Philly.

Pennant races were alive and well in Washington, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Boston and Tampa.

But at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies tried to stave off their date with their 82nd loss for another day, a defeat that would clinch the franchise's first losing season since 2002. Thankfully for Ryne Sandberg and Co., the Phils' opponent was a Miami Marlins team that's careening toward 100 losses.

But even securing a victory over the Marlins is still a tough task when you're sending a spot starter to the mound.

Zach Miner pitched three shutout innings, but relying too heavily on a young and unproven bullpen cost the Phillies in a 4-3 defeat.

Giancarlo Stanton launched a two-run, game-tying home run off Ethan Martin in the sixth inning and Ed Lucas ripped a go-ahead home run off Cesar Jimenez in the 10th.

"The bullpen did a nice job in a bullpen game," Sandberg said, selecting the positive out of a game that saw just two of seven Phillies pitchers allow an earned run. "The Stanton home run was the big shot for them."

The loss was just the fourth for the Phillies (71-81) in their last 12 games. The Phils are one more defeat from clinching their first losing season in 11 years.

With 10 games remaining on the docket, the Phils' date with a losing destiny is more of a formality than anything.

Miner, who stepped in for an ailing Kyle Kendrick, held the Marlins to two singles in three innings. But because he hadn't started a game since July, when he was a member of the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Miner's day was deemed over after 61 pitches.

Enter a bullpen chock full of similar Triple A arms, beginning with Luis Garcia, who split his time in 2012 between pitching for the Independent League Newark Bears and cutting hair at a New Jersey salon. Garcia allowed one unearned run in two innings, however.

But Martin followed and challenged the one guy in the Miami lineup whom even Roy Halladay admitted to avoiding at all costs.

After beginning the sixth by allowing a single to Christian Yelich, Martin left a slider on too much of the plate and Stanton sent the ball into orbit. It landed on Ashburn Alley, just in front of the line at Planet Hoagie, for a game-tying home run.

"It wasn't a feel I wanted to have on it," Martin said of the pitch. "It was just one of those things where I got beat. When you're facing a hitter like that, he's going to do what he did."

Justin De Fratus, B.J. Rosenberg and Jake Diekman followed Martin with three scoreless frames; they struck out five of the 12 batters they faced.

But when the game went to extra innings, Jimenez served up a solo bomb to Lucas to give the Marlins their first lead of the night.

"We all want to go out there and throw up zeroes," Martin said. "So when that happens, it's frustrating, especially because was the whole bullpen."

The Phillies' offense had its own chances, but was doomed with bad luck (in the eighth) and bad execution (in the 10th).

In the eighth, Domonic Brown led off with a double and moved to third base later in the inning. With two outs and Brown 90 feet from scoring the go-ahead run, Roger Bernadina lined a shot toward the hole at shortstop.

But the Marlins' slick-fielding rookie shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, made a jaw-dropping stop with his backhand and fired to first to nab Bernadina and end the inning.

"That was a tough one. He made a good play," Bernadina said.

"From our angle, that ball is tailing away from him - we had it in the outfield grass in leftfield for a base hit," Sandberg said. "How he closed the gap and then threw out a fast runner - incredible. A game-saving play."

After Lucas' go-ahead homer, the Phils rallied in the bottom of the 10th, when Carlos Ruiz reached on an error to begin the inning and Brown followed with his second double in as many at-bats.

But with the game-tying run 90 feet from home and the go-ahead run on second - and no outs - the Phillies failed to cash in.

Miami closer Steve Cishek got Darin Ruf to fly out to shallow right before striking out Bernadina and then inducing a game-ending groundout from pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis.

"Frustrating," Sandberg said. "We couldn't execute and get anybody in."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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