The Marlins had to have a perfect 7-0 finish this week to complete their first season at .500 since 2009.
Now that that’s in the rear-view mirror after Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Phillies, the next goal to shoot for is guaranteeing they won’t finish in last place for the fourth year in a row.
The Marlins (75-82) can still accomplish that — clinch it, in fact — if they beat the Phillies (72-86) in their home finale at Marlins Park on Thursday afternoon.
But it’s going to require more offense than they’ve been getting lately.
Wednesday marked the eight time in their past 12 games — or since Giancarlo Stanton was lost for the season on Sept.11 — that the Marlins scored two runs or fewer and lost. Miami left six runners on base and finished 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday.
“I don’t know how many games in a row this is, but we’re having a tough time scoring,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We had some guys in scoring position and couldn’t get a couple add-on hits to score some runs. That’s kind of the way it’s been going since we lost [Stanton] and now without [Marcell] Ozuna in the lineup.”
The Marlins did have chances, including a runner on second base after a Garrett Jones double with one out in the ninth.
But Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, making his first appearance since blowing a save against the Marlins on Sept.14 and being suspended for seven games for making an obscene, crotch-grabbing gesture toward Phillies fans, shut the door.
He got Adeiny Hechavarria to fly out to left and then struck out Enrique Hernandez to end the game.
“I don’t know how to say this, but I put [umpire] Joe West [who ejected him after the incident] in the back of my mind,” Papelbon said. “I got the raw end of the deal.”
Hernandez provided what little offense the Marlins generated Wednesday against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick.
Hernandez’s one-out double to right-center field in the seventh tied the game at 1. But the Marlins couldn’t capitalize on the momentum.
Kendrick induced pinch-hitter Reed Johnson into an inning-ending double play, and the Phillies didn’t give up a hit again until Jones doubled in the ninth.
“I was struggling a little bit and it feels good, and it feels nice to have a nice day,” said Hernandez, who tripled in the fifth inning and had his first multi-hit game since being acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline.
“But at the end of the day, we’re still trying to get as many wins as possible, and we didn’t get it done. In the ninth inning, I didn’t get it done.”
Kendrick, 13-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 25 career appearances against the Marlins coming in, held Miami to six hits and one run over seven innings.
He ultimately picked up the win after the Phillies scratched across a run in the top of the eighth off Marlins reliever Chris Hatcher.
Marlon Byrd drove in Maikel Franco with the game-winning run with a one-out single to right. Kendrick drove in the Phillies’ first run on the last of his three hits, a double to left off Marlins starter Brad Hand.
Hand, making his 16th and final start of the season, went seven innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.
It was the eighth time in his 13 starts since the All-Star break that he pitched more than six innings and allowed three runs or less.
“I kept the ball down for the most part — except to Kendrick,” Hand said.
"It’s been interesting but hopefully I finished kind of strong here so going into next year I'm really trying to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. I've been throwing a lot more strikes in these last four starts. I think [Wednesday] was the only time I walked somebody."
The Marlins played some sparkling defense to back Hand early.
A perfect relay from left fielder Christian Yelich to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and catcher Jeff Mathis cut down Byrd at the plate in the second. Byrd then lined out to third baseman Casey McGehee and into an unassisted double play with runners on second and third to end the fourth.
Philly loaded the bases in the fifth before Hand ended the frame by striking out Franco looking. Then, first baseman Justin Bour, made a diving catch to rob Chase Utley of a hit to open the sixth.
"That's what we're going to need to do [to win], because we're not scoring runs," Redmond said. "We're going to have to pitch and play defense and give ourselves a chance and hopefully we'll get that big hit eventually."