Phillies fall to the Marlins in 11 innings

ASSOCIATED PRESS Marlon Byrd heads home to score on Domonic Brown's single as Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia awaits late throw.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Marlon Byrd heads home to score on Domonic Brown's single as Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia awaits late throw.
Posted: July 03, 2014

MIAMI - With two swings in consecutive at-bats off veteran reliever Kevin Gregg, Marlon Byrd and Cody Asche did two things.

They tied Tuesday night's game at Marlins Park with two outs in the eighth inning. And they helped the Phillies avoid scoring two runs or fewer for the 32nd time in 83 games this season.

But they could not prevent the Phillies from losing for the ninth time in their last 11 games.

Ed Lucas' one-out, walkoff single to right off Justin De Fratus in the 11th inning sent the Phillies to their fifth straight defeat, 5-4, to the Miami Marlins.

It was the first run De Fratus had allowed in 17 games since returning from Triple A in late May.

"The bullpen did a very nice job,'' manager Ryne Sandberg said. "De Fratus had a streak [going]. He pitched very well.''

But aside from the brief fireworks from Byrd and Asche, the offense did little.

"It has been sporadic,'' Sandberg said. "It's made it tough on the starting pitcher that day, trying to be perfect. The bullpen has stepped up and done its job, putting up zeros late in the game, only to come short on the offensive side of things a lot of times.''

The latest loss moved the Phillies (36-47) to 11 games under .500, tying a season low-water mark. The 9 1/2-game deficit in the National League East standings is a season high.

In 4 weeks and 1 day, Major League Baseball's trade deadline will arrive, and the man at the controls is aware that the time to sell is quickly approaching.

"Obviously, my job is to think about what's going to happen over the next month,'' Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before the game. "If there are things we can't do in this next month as far as trying to improve the club, for the long-term or the short-term, then we'll try to figure it out afterwards and in the offseason. We have to improve in our offense. We're not getting enough offensive production. Pitching and defense has always been the theme, but we've been so inconsistent offensively, that's got to be one of the priorities moving forward.''

Even if the Phillies continue to free-fall, a full-fledged fire sale is highly unlikely, in large part because of the age, health and - last but certainly not least - contracts of the veteran players who would be a part of such a fire sale. For example: On the surface Byrd (16 home runs) would appear to be an attractive trade chip, but he has a very attainable vesting option in his contract that could make it $20 million for the next 2 1/2 seasons, which would expire a month after his 39th birthday.

As with Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett and other vets, ownership likely would have to eat money in a deal to get a prospect or two back.

As has been discussed in these pages before, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are longshots to move. Both have full no-trade clauses, and both have played their entire careers in Philly; Utley had the opportunity to opt for free agency after last season, when the Phillies finished with 89 losses, but opted to re-sign.

Amaro doesn't plan to blow it up Houston Astros-style, anyway.

"I can't blow this team up for 5 years and expect us to be [terrible] for the next 5 or 6 years,'' Amaro said. "I don't think that's the right way to go about our franchise. Our fans, our organization, I think we owe it to a lot of people, if we do have to go into a transition, it's going to be a shorter one than that. There's ways to do it. You have to make shrewd moves, make intelligent moves and try to continue to do that so that the drop off isn't long-term. So if we have to go a step backward for a year or two to move forward, then that's what we'll try to do.''

As the losses pile up and the deficit in the division grows larger, it feels as if it's only a matter of time before Amaro, who stood pat last July, begins to sell off pieces. It could also happen well before July 31.

"It could be, but you can't ask a team to pretty-please trade with us,'' Amaro said. "We've had a ton of conversations, I've had a ton of conversations with teams. They're assessing the market, too. We're not the only team in baseball that may have players available. We're not the only team trying to improve our club. So I think a lot of teams are in limbo. There's a lot of time left to decide. Teams are still not sure what it is they need. On our side, we're looking for some offense, we're looking for some younger players, we're looking for some things that can help us short-term and long-term. As far as the other teams are concerned, some of them know exactly what they want, but most of them don't. I mean, there's still a lot of time.''

For the Phillies veterans, their time might be running out.

Burnett, who signed a 1-year, $16 million deal the day before the first day of spring training, could be among them. Burnett was given a 2-0 lead by the offense through four innings, but he gave it back in a two-inning span between the fourth and fifth.

Burnett allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings, striking out 10 and walking four.

"You try not to think about it, to be honest with you,'' Burnett, who has a 3.92 ERA in 18 starts, said of the trade deadline. "This is my team. Until I'm told otherwise, this is my team . . . I try not to worry about all of that or get involved in all of that until I have to.''

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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