Marlins slip past Phillies in the ninth

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is forced out at second base as Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria prepares to throw to first on Thursday, May 22, 2014. (Alan Diaz/AP)
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is forced out at second base as Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria prepares to throw to first on Thursday, May 22, 2014. (Alan Diaz/AP)
Posted: May 24, 2014

MIAMI - Minutes after a 4-3 loss to Miami on Thursday, Ryne Sandberg ripped another blue lineup card into pieces. His Phillies are 20-24, and 20-24 teams are wont to overlook the details. Those are what decide one-run games; be it an 0-2 pitch, a bad read while running the bases, or the inability to field a dribbler.

"We had some opportunities," Sandberg said.

But these Phillies are stuck in neutral. They are one game worse than their 21-23 record through 44 games in each of the last two seasons. A weekend of optimism at Citizens Bank Park spawned only more ineptitude in Miami.

The Marlins won in the ninth inning. Jake Diekman, who had not allowed a run in May, loaded the bases and could not escape. Christian Yelich slashed a 97-m.p.h. fastball to left field, and that was all. Miami, the best home team in baseball, captured another series at Marlins Park.

"There has to be some urgency, because we're supposed to win," said Cole Hamels, who allowed three runs in seven innings. "We're all veteran guys. This team is built to win now, not later."

Hamels, despite his seven decent innings, failed at the little things. He permitted a two-out double in the sixth to Ed Lucas. He attacked Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' best hitter, even with an empty base.

"The scouting report is don't let him beat you," Sandberg said. Stanton blasted a first-pitch fastball to right for a run-scoring single. Casey McGehee, who spent 2013 in Japan, popped out to end the inning.

"I understand the situation," Hamels said, "but I think McGehee is just as good. He's been playing really well, too."

In the seventh, Marcell Ozuna tattooed an 0-2 Hamels cutter for his second home run in less than 24 hours. The Phillies have permitted four home runs on 0-2 pitches. That is tied for the most in the National League. Opponents entered Thursday with a .436 OPS - almost 100 points higher than the league average - against Phillies pitchers on 0-2 counts.

"The 0-2 pitch stands out," Sandberg said. "That's been kind of a nemesis of ours."

Said Hamels: "I thought I might be able to jam him and get a double play. That might not have been the right type of thought process with him because he's not really a double-play type of guy."

The Phillies did not threaten Henderson Alvarez, just another young, hard-throwing Marlins starter. Hamels started the third with a single and attempted - for some reason - to go from first to third on a Jimmy Rollins single up the middle. A laser throw by centerfielder Ozuna erased Hamels at third for the first out, a baseball sin.

Hamels said he tried for third because he assumed support would be difficult to find on this day. Will Nieves and Chase Utley stranded Rollins at second. It was not until Alvarez departed that, in the eighth, Marlon Byrd smashed a 425-foot bomb to center to tie the game.

Diekman undid that. Sandberg said he pulled Hamels at 91 pitches because he liked Mike Adams against Miami's righthanded hitters in the eighth. But Yelich was the lone lefthander in their lineup, and Diekman is far better against lefties.

Ozuna and Jeff Mathis - both righties - found holes with singles. Reed Johnson, another righthanded bat, pinch-hit. Sandberg would not insert his closer, Jonathan Papelbon, in a tie game. His other two righthanded pitchers, Jeff Manship and Luis Garcia, permitted eight runs Wednesday. Diekman had to rescue a flawed unit.

Johnson tapped one toward third. Diekman chased it, tipped the ball, and third baseman Cody Asche had no play. The bases were loaded.

"I feel like I should have made it," Diekman said. "I don't know if I tried to rush it too much or not. It basically lost the game right there."

Yelich finished it. All that awaited the Phillies at home Friday were Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

"I don't see the frustration yet," Hamels said. The lefthander, then, has not searched beyond the Phillies clubhouse.



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