The Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, who bring up the rear of the NL East, went back at it Friday night to start the proverbial second half of the season.
It was easy to see the standings don’t lie.
Yes, the 30-62 Phillies, who won 102 games just four years ago, seem likely headed toward their first 100-loss season since 1961. Like the Marlins they have their own interim manager, Pete Mackanin, who took over when Ryne Sandberg unceremoniously walked out the door three weeks ago.
On the other hand the Marlins — like the Phils — have been brutal on the road, coming into this series just 14-28 away from Marlins Park. Of course when you butcher a hard-hit but catchable fly ball to center in the eighth inning of a tied game — leading to four unearned runs — that’s what you come to expect, as the Marlins dropped a 6-3 decision.
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That marred a solid outing from Jose Fernandez, making his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery. Though the big guy didn’t get much run support, he didn’t help his cause by serving up a sixth-inning leadoff double to mound counterpart Adam Morgan. That triggered a two-run Phillies rally, during which the Marlins misplayed a bunt, followed by Justin Bour booting a soft grounder — a miscue that loaded the bases with nobody out.
It could’ve been worse had Fernandez not induced Mikael Franco to bounce into a double play, before Ryan Howard singled to left to make it 2-1.
That meant, even after the Fish managed to tie the score in the top of the seventh on Cole Gillespie’s double, manager Dan Jennings was forced to lift Fernandez for a pinch hitter. Derek Dietrich hit it hard up the middle, but couldn’t get it past Freddy Galvis, who threw him out to retire the side.
“I felt we had to go get a hitter there,” said Jennings, who after the game expressed regret about pulling Fernandez after just 70 pitches. “In the National League when you’ve got a chance like that to score, especially on the road, you have to go for it.
“Jose threw the ball outstanding. He had a tremendous changeup and was very efficient with his pitches.”
Matching him pitch-for-pitch, inning by inning, was Morgan, the rookie lefthander who breezed through the first three innings in just 37 pitches. Once it came down to the bullpens, however, the Marlins were done in by Gillespie’s misplay on Franco’s liner to center, followed by Jeff Francoeur’s three-run pinch homer off Mike Dunn to break it open 6-2. J.T. Realmuto’s solo shot in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon hardly mattered at that point.
“I don’t think I took too sharp an angle,” said Gillespie, who had shifted from left to center moments before, though he couldn’t recall the last time he botched a play like that. “I kind of ran back and reached for it but it went off the top of my glove.
“It’s frustrating, because that was a play that changed the whole game. It’s a play I’ve got to make.”
As for Jennings lifting him for Dietrich in the seventh, Fernandez had no complaints. He’s just happy to be pitching again and feeling so well.
“I feel blessed to go out on the mound again,” said Fernandez, who credits catcher Realmuto for much of his success. “I respect the decision the manager made. I’m here to do what I’m told.”
GORDON GOES ON DL
Second baseman Dee Gordon was placed on the disabled list with his dislocated thumb, retroactive to July 12, and third baseman Martin Prado was activated.
Jennings is cautiously optimistic Gordon won’t be out long.
“Right now it’s a strength factor,’’ said Jennings, who moved Adeiny Hechavarria into Gordon’s leadoff spot, with Prado moving back to his familiar No. 2 slot. “We just felt with Martin coming back [Friday] the easiest transition would be just to put Dee on the DL, knowing that he’s going to take a little time to build up the strength in that thumb, so that when he does come back he can grip the bat and be ready to go,’’ Jennings said.
“You hate it for Dee because he had such a great first half. Just his energy when he’s around, he lifts everyone up. But hopefully this is very short-lived and it’s a 15-day DL.’’
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (7-5, 3.40 ERA) vs. Phillies RHP Chad Billingsley (1-3, 6.75).
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Haren (7-5, 3.24) vs. Phillies LHP Cole Hamels (5-7, 3.63).