Utley is happy to be healthy and is looking forward to next year
Ryan Sandberg's Phillies suffered a 4-3 loss to the Marlins on his 54th birthday. (USA Today Images)
Ryne Sandberg did not get a win for his 54th birthday Wednesday night, but his prize will be coming soon.
It seems to be a fait accompli that Sandberg will lose the interim tag and be named full-time Phillies manager sometime in the next week or so. An announcement could come before the Phillies close out the season Sept. 29 in Atlanta or shortly thereafter.
Whatever the case, you can bet the kids’ tuition money that Sandberg is the guy.
He even seems to know it.
He didn’t sound like a man uncertain of where he’ll be next year as he talked about Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).
Chase Utley had two RBIs, giving him 10 in his last three games.
After the game, Sandberg spoke positively about the way Utley has been swinging the bat.
“He’s had a solid year,” Sandberg said. “He’s swinging a real good bat. He’s shown his power, shown his leadership. He’s played a lot this year and all that’s good. He’s a mainstay out there and a steady force. He’s a big piece for next year. He’s showing the type of player that he is and expect no less next year.”
That was two references to next year in two sentences.
Sounds like a man who knows where he’s going to be, a man who will soon get his prize, right?
We know. This is hardly earth-shattering stuff. Sandberg was the heir to Charlie Manuel’s throne from the time he was elevated to third base coach after last season. Before that even. In his month as Manuel’s replacement, Sandberg has overseen 18 wins, 14 losses, lots of life and a bunch of late-game rallies. He’s solidified his status.
There was no late-game rally for the Phils on Wednesday night, however.
Miami’s Ed Lucas smacked a solo homer off lefty Cesar Jimenez in the top of the 10th inning to break a 3-3 tie and propel the Marlins to the win.
The Phils tried to rally in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Ruiz began the frame by reaching base on an error and Domonic Brown followed with a double. Second and third, no outs. Then bases loaded, one out. The Phils came up empty as Steve Cishek pitched into trouble and out of trouble to preserve the win.
“It was frustrating at the end,” Sandberg said. “We couldn’t execute and get anyone in.”
Manuel said that a time or two the last few seasons.
Sandberg was asked if he had any fresh solutions to getting runners home from third with less than two outs.
“Just for the hitters to remember the pressure is on the pitcher,” he said. “Stay within the strike zone, be patient, relax, all of the things we talk about. Some of them are young hitters. It’s a learning experience for them. We’ll continue to work at it. In some cases in the last month, we’ve had key hits in those situations also.”
Just not in this game.
The Phils also left a runner at third in the eighth and ninth innings.
In the eighth, Marlins’ shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria made a sensational diving play to take away what looked like a tie-breaking hit from Roger Bernadina.
“Their shortstop made an unbelievable play,” Sandberg said. “We thought the ball was in left field. It was a game-saver.”
Lucas’ longball wasn’t the only one that hurt the Phillies. With Kyle Kendrick scratched (see story), the Phillies used seven relievers to get through the game. Rookie Ethan Martin gave up a two-run lead in the sixth when he surrendered a mammoth two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton. The blast made it a 3-3 game.
Stanton’s homer was last seen stopping in for an Italian special -- sweet, no hot -- at Planet Hoagie out on Ashburn Alley. The estimated distance of the blast was 460 feet.
Stanton hit a slider.
“I didn’t make a great pitch,” Martin said. “That kind of guy is going to do that.”