It would be an exaggeration to say that Ricky Nolasco owned Citizens Bank Park. Hitters own the Phillies’ home park. But, until Friday, no starting pitcher with at least seven starts there had a better winning percentage than Nolasco’s .857.
“I love pitching here,” Nolasco said. “If this stadium doesn’t get you going and amped up, then something’s wrong with you. I’ve always liked pitching here.”
Nolasco was 6-1, a splendid record built largely on his ability to avoid the home run in a place where the ball flies. He had given up only five homers in more than 48 innings of work dating to 2006.
Same pitcher. New season. Different outcome.
On Friday, the Phillies torched Nolasco for three home runs — the most he had allowed in a game since the 2010 season — as the Phillies handed the Marlins their third consecutive loss, 4-1.
All three blows were solo shots to lead off three successive innings, but they inflicted sufficient damage.
Long-time Marlins thorn Ryan Howard took Nolasco deep in the second. Chase Utley followed suit in the third. Domonic Brown completed the hat trick in the fourth.
Nolasco said it was a “bad pitch” to Howard, “bad location” on the one to Utley and a bad break with Brown, whom he thought he struck out the pitch before if not for a call that didn’t go in his favor.
“I thought I punched him out with a fastball in but just didn’t get the call,” Nolasco said. “It happens.”
Nolasco didn’t pitch a gem by any stretch of the imagination. But when the margin for error is so thin, as it is for any starting pitcher on the Marlins given the team’s difficulty with scoring runs, every miscue is magnified.
“It’s tough for our pitchers when we’re just scoring one run a night,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We’ve got to find a way to put some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.”
The Marlins were not without scoring opportunities. They had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh after Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo walked back-to-back batters. But Bastardo then whiffed pinch-hitters Austin Kearns and Matt Diaz to end the threat.
In the eighth, the Marlins had runners at first and second with one out but came up empty when Justin Ruggiano went down swinging and Marcell Ozuna fouled out.
The Marlins went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position Friday.
“We got into some good counts,” Redmond said. “Kearns was 3-2 and struck out and Diaz, he got into a good count, too. It’s just not happening. We’re not getting the hits. We’re not able to drive guys in, for whatever reason. We’re not able to match their runs.
“They put up four pretty easy runs and we’re scrapping for one run.”
Donovan Solano’s solo home run in the fourth inning off Jonathan Pettibone represented all the scoring for the Marlins. Ruggiano hit two fly balls to the warning track that were caught.
But the Marlins did little else offensively outside of the rookie Ozuna, who has now hit safely in his first four major-league games. The last rookie to do that to start a career for the Marlins was Logan Morrison in 2010. Alejandro De Aza holds the club record by hitting in the first seven games of his big-league career.
“We were close to breaking the game open but couldn’t get that one hit,” Nolasco said. “It was good to give those guys a battle, though.
“I think if we continue to do that, everybody in here’s confident that they’ll start turning into runs and base hits and scoring runners.”