Charlie Manuel likes to say baseball is a funny game.
Saturday at the ballpark offered evidence of that.
Cole Hamels has been the Phillies money-in-the-bank ace this season. He entered Saturdays start against the Miami Marlins at 8-1 with a 2.43 ERA. He had won eight straight decisions and the Phillies were victorious in his previous nine starts.
That run of success ended as the Marlins handed Hamels and the Phillies a 5-4 loss in front of the 230th consecutive sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
The loss left Hamels at 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts against Miami this season.
He is 8-0 with a 2.21 ERA against everyone else.
Theyre a good team, Hamels said afterward. Unfortunately, both games Ive pitched against them Ive made too many mistakes. Theyve gotten on base and gotten the big hits when they need them. Theyre a good team and theyre obviously playing very well.
The Marlins are 22-9 in their last 31 games and are just a game out of first place in the NL East. The Phillies are still in fifth place, but far from buried at 3 out as they try to hang on until Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay get back.
Those guys, at the end of the day, at the end of the month, and the end of the season, theyre going to be there, Miami manager Ozzie Guillen said. I think theyre that good. Obviously theyre better with those guys Utley and Howard and Doc but theyre not there. Theyre still fighting and putting up a fight every day without those guys. Theyre that good.
Juan Pierre is doing a tremendous job for them. The kid at second base Freddy Galvis is playing good enough. Theyre a good enough club to compete, but obviously they miss those guys.
Guillen then joked that he was in no rush to see the Phillies wounded warriors return.
The Phillies suffered another major injury on Friday night when Jose Contreras went down with two tears in his right elbow (see story). He will miss the remainder of the season. It might not sound like a huge loss, but consider: Contreras is one of the few guys in the bullpen with a wealth of experience and he had racked up six straight scoreless appearances before going down.
With no timetable for Mike Stutes return from the DL, its likely that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be looking to bolster his bullpen as mid-season approaches. Until then, the Phils hope Chad Qualls can find some consistency and Antonio Bastardo continues to build toward his 2011 form, while rookie Jake Diekman tries to realize his sky-high potential.
Weve got to have confidence in them and give them a chance and let them show they can do it, manager Charlie Manuel said.
Hamels did not have a good outing it happens but he was far from the sole reason the Phils lost this game. Sure, he couldnt hold a 3-0 lead and was ambushed by a couple of home runs by Hanley Ramirez in the middle innings, but the offense did not have a good day. The Phils bats were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, including 0 for 4 in the final two innings when a comeback was within reach.
We could have won the game, Manuel said. It was there for the taking. We just didnt get the big hit at the right time.
The right time for a hit would have been the bottom of the eighth when the Phils had the potential tying run at third, but Carlos Ruiz and Ty Wigginton both struck out against reliever Steve Cishek. Wigginton nearly plated the run before striking out but his shot to left was just foul.
In the ninth, the Phillies got a leadoff single from Placido Polanco and a sacrifice bunt by Galvis. Galvis appeared to reach first safely when he eluded first baseman Logan Morrisons tag, but first base umpire Doug Eddings ruled him out for leaving the base line even though replays showed Galvis was within the base line. Manuel asked Eddings to seek help from the home plate umpire, but Eddings wouldnt oblige.
He said he didnt have to get help and he wasnt going to ask for it, Manuel said. He felt like he made the right call.
Had Galvis been on first as replays showed he should have the Phils would have had runners on first and second with no outs in a one-run game in the ninth. Instead, the game ended with Health Bell getting Brian Schneider and Jimmy Rollins on pop outs.
The Phils won two straight series entering this one and they will try to do it again Sunday with Joe Blanton on the mound. Hes been hit hard in his last three starts 29 hits and 20 runs in 13 23 innings.
Winning series is what its all about, Shane Victorino said. Yeah, youd like to win every game. But when you go 1-1, you try to win the series, especially in the division.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org