Phillies strand 17 but rally in 11th to snap skid

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Phillies strand 17 but rally in 11th to snap skid

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NEW YORK -- After watching his team get smacked around in four ugly losses against the Toronto Blue Jays, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg called a little team meeting before Friday night’s series opener against the New York Mets (see story).

Sandberg got a few things off his chest then left the clubhouse. The players continued the meeting.

Was it productive?

You make the call.

The Phillies didn’t display a particularly efficient offense, but they got some good pitching and managed to grind things out until the night ended with a 3-2 win over the Mets in an 11-inning game that took four hours, 39 minutes to play (see Instant Replay).

"Tonight was a true test," Chase Utley said. "Every win is important."

Utley had a big game. He had three hits and scored all three of his team’s runs. His double in the 11th set the stage for Marlon Byrd’s tie-breaking double. Both hits came against reliever Carlos Torres. Byrd’s double came after he had struck out in each of his first three official at-bats.

After the game, Utley didn’t want to talk about the team meeting, but he did acknowledge that, “it was a good time for it.”

Speaking in general, the de facto team captain said, “We’ve got to continue to grind and pull for each other no matter what happens. You’re going to lose some ballgames. Coming to the field every day prepared to win is the most important thing.”

The victory left the Phillies and Mets tied for the bottom spot in the NL East. Both clubs are 16-18.

After giving up 22 runs in games started by Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett the previous two nights, the Phillies got excellent pitching from starter Roberto Hernandez and five relievers.

Hernandez allowed seven baserunners in the first two innings, but didn’t break. He gave up just one run in that span. He left after five innings with a 2-1 lead thanks to a pair of RBI singles by Domonic Brown.

Hernandez has put together back-to-back good starts. He has allowed just one run over his last 12 1/3 innings.

Jake Diekman and Mike Adams protected the Phillies’ lead in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, but Antonio Bastardo squandered it in the bottom of the eighth when he gave up a two-out walk followed by an RBI double to David Wright.

Bastardo came back and pitched a scoreless ninth and Mario Hollands added a scoreless frame in the 10th.

The Phillies left 17 men on base. The Mets left 15.

That's pretty ugly.

Finally, the Phils got something going in the 11th and Byrd was able to break the tie with his RBI double down the right-field line and propel the Phillies to victory. Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his 10th save.

Sandberg praised Byrd for continuing to battle after striking out three times.

“We couldn’t come up with the big hit until Byrd got that one,” Sandberg said. “He battled and that was a clutch hit, obviously.

“Marlon has a great mentality for that. He always grinds it out and he’s always positive. He wants to be that guy. It was good to see him come through or we might still be out there.”

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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