Defensive miscues, quiet bats cost Phillies vs. Marlins

Defensive miscues, quiet bats cost Phillies vs. Marlins

April 13, 2013, 11:30 pm
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MIAMI – A lack of clutch hitting and sloppy pitching and defense in the ninth inning has put the Phillies in this uncomfortable situation:

They need a win Sunday afternoon to avoid losing a series to the lowly Miami Marlins.

The Marlins rallied for a run in the ninth inning to beat the Phillies, 2-1, on Saturday night (see Instant Replay). It was just the Marlins’ second win in 11 games this season while the Phillies fell to 5-6.

Another weak offensive performance (1 for 7) with runners in scoring position put the Phils in a position where they had no margin for error in the late innings.

Though they were not charged with an error in the ninth, they made a number of costly miscues.

First, reliever Phillippe Aumont, pitching in a 1-1 game, walked the leadoff man, Placido Polanco.

Polanco raced to third on a base hit by Greg Dobbs. At least it was scored a base hit. Dobbs slapped the ball off the glove of first baseman Kevin Frandsen and it rolled into right field.

With runners on the corners, Aumont struck out Austin Kearns for the first out. That brought up lefty-hitting Chris Coghlan. Manager Charlie Manuel stuck with the right-hander Aumont instead of bringing in the lefty Jeremy Horst because “he has a hard sinker and he’s more apt to get a ground ball.”

Aumont got the ground ball, a bounder to second baseman Chase Utley, who was playing up. Utley charged hard with the intent of cutting the run at home, but the ball ate him up. No play was made and Polanco scooted home with the winning run.

The ball to Frandsen and the ball to Utley were both generously scored hits, giving the Marlins five on the night.

“We can make those plays,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We can definitely make those plays.”

On Friday night, the Phillies faced a similar play: Eighth inning, score tied, runners on first and third. In that game, Utley played up tight looking to cut the run or turn a double play. He started a key double play that helped the Phils win, 3-1.

A night later ...

“I tried to pick it clean on an in-between hop and wasn’t able to,” Utley said. “If it were hit harder, we would have tried for a double play. We got the ground ball we were looking for. I just wasn’t able to come up with it.”

It was not a good night for the Phillies’ offense, which produced just five hits and stranded eight runners.

The Phils’ bats were shut down handily by 20-year-old rookie Jose Fernandez for six innings. Fernandez, who was pitching at a Tampa high school at this time two years ago, allowed just two hits.

“We didn’t hit the kid,” Manuel said. “He held us.”

The Phils finally scored a run in the seventh inning thanks to an errant throw by Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano. The Phils ended up loading the bases in the frame, but lefty Mike Dunn struck out Jimmy Rollins on three pitches to end the threat.

An inning later, Ryan Howard doubled and pinch-runner John Mayberry Jr. got to third with the potential tie-breaking run. Once again the Phils failed to get the run home as reliever Ryan Webb struck out pinch-hitter Frandsen on four pitches.

On the plus side, Cole Hamels righted himself after opening the season with two bad starts. He pitched no-hit ball for 4 2/3 innings before a two-out triple by No. 8 hitter Adeiny Hechavarria and a single by the pitcher Fernandez gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead. Hamels called the 1-1 fastball to Fernandez “the worst pitch I could have thrown.”

Hamels walked three in six innings and threw 90 pitches. Though he took a step in the right direction, he’s not completely happy about where he is.

“I need to throw more first-pitch strikes,” he said. “I need to work ahead in the count more. It sets up pitches and makes hitters uncomfortable.”

The Phillies are 0-3 in Hamels’ three starts this season.

The Phils send Roy Halladay to the mound in Sunday’s rubber match. Once upon a time, that had victory written all over it. Now? We’ll see whether Halladay’s early-season struggles continue or he turns it around to help the Phils avoid what would be an embarrassing early-season series loss.