Phillies can't overcome Marlins' power during loss in series opener

Phillies can't overcome Marlins' power during loss in series opener

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MIAMI – The Phillies were overpowered on Monday night.

Granted, the winning run for the Miami Marlins in a 6-5 walk-off victory was a single in the 10th inning by the unimposing Dee Gordon (see Instant Replay).

But it was before that.

It happened two batters into the bottom of the first and again in the third – twice – two home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and one by Justin Bour.

While the Phillies hit no home runs and had a walk by Cesar Hernandez that keyed their big third-inning, four-run rally, the Marlins posed in front of a mirror and flexed their muscles like baseball’s version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Saturday Night Live’s Hans and Franz).

You know … “We want to pump you up.”

“Everyone knows about them,” Hernandez said of Stanton and Bour. “They were in the Home Run Derby, and they were there because they hit so many shots.”

The Phillies, meanwhile, rank 28th out of 30 teams with 92 homers.

Nobody on the Phillies has more than 15 homers. The Marlins, who are just 23rd in the majors in long balls, have three players – Stanton, Bour and Marcell Ozuna – who each have more than 20.

Stanton has 28 homers, which leads the National League and is second in the majors behind New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who has 30.

Ozuna and Stanton were All-Stars this year, and Bour went mano a mano against Judge in a dramatic Home Run Derby.

And as the Phillies (30-61) rebuild their roster, it would be nice if they can find more thump throughout their lineup. They had just six hits in 10 innings on Monday, and only three of those were for extra bases, two doubles by rookie Nick Williams and one by Freddy Galvis.

Of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects at the start of this season, eight of them were hitters, including Williams. So maybe those thumpers are on the way.

The Phillies could have used one in the eighth. With one out and the score tied 5-5, the Phillies had the bases loaded but failed to score. Both Brock Stassi (fastball) and pinch hitter Daniel Nava (curveball) were caught looking at strike three on pitches by reliever David Phelps.

“Another one-run loss,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin lamented. “We battled.”

The battle ended in the 10th. With one out, Derek Dietrich hit a long ball to the wall in right field. Late-game substitution Ty Kelly couldn’t grab it, crashing into the wall on his attempt as Dietrich legged out a triple. The Phillies walked two batters intentionally to get to a pinch hitter, backup catcher A.J. Ellis. After Ellis hit into a fielder’s choice, Gordon drove a pitch to right field for the winner.

Gordon, the sixth batter due up in the inning, was in the clubhouse watching video and didn’t think he would have an at-bat. But when Phillies reliever Mark Leiter, Jr. – who was demoted to the minors after taking the loss – gave up the triple, things changed quickly.

“It was chaotic for a second because those intentional walks happen quickly,” Gordon said. “I didn’t even have my batting gloves on when I ran to the on-deck circle.”

Gordon slapped the gloves on quickly and delivered a line-drive single to right for Miami’s fourth walk-off of the season and its first since June 19. Stanton, by the way, nearly hit a third homer. But his high drive to deep left-center was caught by leftfielder Cameron Perkins, who jumped just a bit higher than centerfielder Odubel Herrera to make the grab up against the wall. After the catch, Herrera fell on top of Perkins.

The Marlins nearly ended the game in the bottom of the ninth.

With the bases loaded and one out, Miami had its first chance for a walk-off win. But closer Hector Neris, inheriting Ricardo Pinto’s mess, struck out Christian Yelich. Ozuna then hit a line drive off Neris’ body. The ball bounced to first baseman Tommy Joseph for the inning-ending out.

The Phillies’ bullpen, which allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings, was better than starter Jerad Eickhoff, who was mostly ineffective.

Eickhoff took a no-decision in his second start after coming off the disabled list with a back injury. He allowed five runs in six innings. He struck out eight but walked four and gave up those three homers.

“The Bour [home run] was the most frustrating one,” Eickhoff said. “I should have managed that inning better.”

Phillies' reported interest in Dee Gordon makes no sense

Phillies' reported interest in Dee Gordon makes no sense

The Phillies are in Miami this week, and if recent reports are any indication, some Marlins could soon be in Philly.

Dee Gordon is the latest Marlin connected to the Phillies.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Phillies and Blue Jays have "sincere interest" in Gordon.

Huh???

Gordon would be an extremely odd fit here. The Phillies already have two young second basemen they like in Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery. Positions aside, adding another speedy player who lacks power and doesn't walk much is not a great path to upgrading to your offense.

Here's my interpretation of this report: It seems to have come from the Marlins since the news about Gordon is accompanied by 10 teams' interest in reliever David Phelps. Seems like a team trying to drum up interest in its own guys.

The Phillies are interested in Christian Yelich and have reportedly kicked around the idea of assuming Giancarlo Stanton's contract as part of a trade with the Marlins (see story). If Gordon's name came up in one of those conversations, then technically he'd be a player the Phillies have shown interest in.

The Marlins are also probably trying to get out from under Gordon's contract. It's not enormous, but $37 million over the next three seasons for a decent player on a team that constantly reloads and fails to draw fans to the ballpark is a lot. Miami could accomplish that goal by attaching Gordon to a Yelich trade, though it would detract from the prospect package it receives in return.

Yelich talks 'heating up'
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported separately that the Phils' interest in Yelich is "heating up."

"A few weeks back we wrote about the resources the Phillies have to be active in trades or free agency," Cafardo wrote Sunday. "We mentioned the possibility of them taking on Giancarlo Stanton’s contract while also having interest in Christian Yelich. Well, the Yelich part is heating up. There are conflicting stories on whether the Marlins have the OK to trade away major talent as the franchise is being sold, but it looks like the Phillies will pursue this."

Yelich is a good player on a great contract who does a solid job of controlling the strike zone. But he's not exactly a game-changer. He's a .292 lifetime hitter, and last season he hit 21 homers and 38 doubles while slugging .483. But during the rest of his career, he's slugged just .407.

Really, the best thing about Yelich is his contract. He's owed $44.5 million from 2018-21 and has a 2022 club option worth $15 million. But a team with as little proven talent and as much open payroll space as the Phillies should be more concerned with adding the best players possible rather than seeking the most bang for their buck.

Dee Gordon honors Jose Fernandez with leadoff homer as Marlins beat Mets

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Dee Gordon honors Jose Fernandez with leadoff homer as Marlins beat Mets

MIAMI — In tribute to Jose Fernandez, left-handed hitter Dee Gordon stepped to the plate as a righty to lead off the first inning of Monday's mournful game.

After one pitch, Gordon switched to his customary left side — and homered in the first at-bat for Miami since the death of Fernandez in a boating accident.

Gordon pulled a 2-0 pitch from New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon over the wall in right for his first homer of the season. He tapped his chest after crossing the plate and waved toward the sky, and then sobbed as teammates hugged him in the dugout.

It was another heart-tugging moment in a succession of them over the past two days. The Marlins went on to a 7-3 victory.

The atmosphere was funereal at Marlins Park three hours before the first pitch, with players going through their pregame stretching in eerie silence.

Then someone cranked up the sound system, and bouncy reggaeton reverberated throughout the ballpark. It was a nudge toward a return to normal, as the Marlins and baseball began to move on without Fernandez.

The animal race at the end of the fifth inning was canceled, along with other in-game entertainment, and most of the Marlins' hitters decided to forgo walk-up music. But there was a game against the Mets, the first for the Marlins since their ace died early Sunday.

"This is shallow, but the show goes on," Marlins president David Samson said. "There has been a lot of talking and a lot of crying and a lot of praying and a lot of trying to make sense of something you can't make sense of. There is no sense to a life ended like that, in a way that is so meaningless.

"It's our job to make his life matter, so we're going to do that forever, and forever starts today."

Fernandez made his major league debut against the Mets in 2013 and was scheduled to face them again Monday night in his final start of the season. Instead, Miami and the Marlins mourned the loss of the 24-year-old pitcher, whose talent and captivating personality were a combination unmatched in the sport.

Fernandez and two other men were killed when his 32-foot SeaVee slammed into a rock jetty that extends off the southern tip of Miami Beach at about 3:15 a.m. Sunday, a medical examiner said.

Fernandez was originally scheduled to pitch Sunday before his start was moved back a day. The change may be the reason he decided to go on the late-night boat outing.

"If he had pitched yesterday, maybe fate would be different," Samson said. "I've been thinking about that a lot."

Manager Don Mattingly said, "Obviously it crosses your mind."

The Marlins' game Sunday against Atlanta was canceled, and when they took the field Monday for batting practice, Fernandez's name and number hovered over the field on the huge video screen. Gordon wore a T-shirt that said "RIP," with a photo of Fernandez shaped as the "I."

For the game, the players decided to wear Fernandez's No. 16, with hastily made uniforms flown in. His number was also stenciled on the back of the mound.

The pregame ceremony included a slow, solemn solo trumpet rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Following the national anthem, New York manager Terry Collins led his Mets across the field to share hugs with the Marlins, and fans briefly chanted "Jose, Jose."

The Marlins then clustered around the mound and put their hands to the dirt. Some scratched out Jose's number or a message of love, and some just rubbed the mound — his mound. His career record at Marlins Park was 29-2.

Fans established a makeshift memorial on the plaza outside the ballpark entrance, leaving dozens of flower arrangements — daisies, carnations, roses and lilies, the result as colorful as Fernandez's personality. There were also candles, and messages scrawled on balls, balloons, photos and jerseys.

The situation was emotional even for the Mets, who are in the thick of the chase for an NL wild card with one week left in the season. On their dugout wall hung a Mets jerseys with Fernandez's name and number.

"Hearts are heavy," New York outfielder Jay Bruce said. "From a professional standpoint, you just try to prepare and play the game and respect the game. But I can't even imagine what it's like over in that other clubhouse."

Collins spoke about Fernandez in the present tense.

"He epitomizes what the game's about," Collins said. "Our game is bigger than a lot of things. It will always go on. We'll remember Jose. You've got to play the game in his honor. He would want to be out there."

Plans for a public funeral had not been finalized, but it was expected to be Thursday, the Marlins' final off day of the season.

Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, won the NL Rookie of the Year award and became a two-time All-Star. His enormous popularity in South Florida bridged the divide between the franchise and fans antagonized by too much losing and too many payroll purges.

Fernandez left behind a girlfriend who is expecting their first child, the mother who came with him to the United States and the grandmother who helped raise him.

On Sunday evening, the entire team took two buses to Fernandez's family home and met for 45 minutes with his mother, grandmother and other relatives and friends.

Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, spoke to reporters near the batting cage — or at least tried to. He said he paid his respects to the family before coming to the ballpark.

"His mother wanted me to tell everyone how she felt," Boras said. "She showed me pictures of him as a boy. She actually made his uniform when he was 7 or 8, with Cuban red pants."

Boras then cut short the interview because he couldn't stop crying.