David Phelps was one of the most versatile and most reliable Marlins in 2016.
The Marlins need him to be again in 2017.
So far that’s been far from the case.
The Padres scored four runs in the seventh inning with the big blast delivered on a three-run home run by catcher Austin Hedges off Phelps that led to a 5-3 loss for the Marlins at Petco Park.
“I’m just leaving balls in the middle of the plate,” Phelps said. “It would be a different story if I was out there walking guys. It’s just execution. I was ahead of pretty much everyone tonight. I just wasn’t putting anyone away.”
In eight appearances so far this season and 10 innings pitched, Phelps has allowed nine earned runs and three home runs. His ERA ballooned to 8.10 after Friday’s outing.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s embarrassing,” Phelps said. “It’s one of those stretches. I’m just thankful I’ve never been on one before this. That last inning was the first 1-2-3 inning of the season for me. Just have to build off that.”
Phelps finished last season with a career-best 2.28 ERA and went 7-6, appearing in 64 games including five starts (86 2/3 innings).
His teammates have not lost confidence he can recover his form quickly.
“We’re going to need him,” starter Adam Conley said. “We know as it’s early and as we’re all trying to settle in and find a rhythm and start to execute, we have full confidence he can do it. He knows how to get guys out. We witnessed that all of last year. I think he’s going to be better this year than he was last year. I think he’ll be better than we’ve ever seen him.”
Conley delivered a quality start Friday, going six innings and allowing one run on six hits, two walks and struck out five.
Conley’s lone run came in the first inning after Manuel Margot tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Erick Aybar.
“As the game went on it felt like I had better rhythm and better feel for what I was doing,” Conley said. “Also I was getting a better feel for these guys [the Padres] too. I’ve never pitched against these guys before except for Schimpf I think I didn’t really have any experience against of those guys in the lineup so I was learning what these guys are doing as I go.”
Marcell Ozuna blasted his sixth home run of the season to tie the game in the second inning for his major-league leading 20th RBI.
There it stayed until the seventh.
Phelps entered and gave up three consecutive singles to open the frame with Aybar loading the bases with a perfectly-placed bunt single that rolled slowly up the third base line.
Phelps got Wil Myers to ground into a double play that allowed the go-ahead run to score, but had a chance to limit the damage.
“You just have to stop the bleeding at that point,” Phelps said. “I’m ahead of Hedges and I just have to put him away. [I left a] cutter in the middle of the plate. That’s what he’s supposed to do with it.”
But after an intentional walk to Yangervis Solarte, Hedges crushed a fastball from Phelps off the façade of the third deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field for a three-run home run.
“With David, obviously he looks healthy,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “But he’s not having, obviously, the success that we were used to last year. I guess we’re going to have to go in, just keep looking, making sure that — Is it just execution? Is it not getting the ball where you want to?
“I think we have to look at it. As long as he’s healthy and the ball seems to be coming out well, then we just have to look at, are we executing pitches?”
The Marlins (8-8) cut the deficit to 5-3 in the ninth on an opposite field, 412-foot, two-run home run by Giancarlo Stanton off former Marlins reliever Brad Hand.
Ichiro Suzuki followed with a pinch-hit ground-rule double with one out.
But Hand struck out Ozuna and induced a game-ending ground out from J.T. Realmuto.