Perhaps the Marlins thought a visit here was baseball’s equivalent of coming to Lourdes, the place where the sick go to be healed.
After all, the rest of the National League has been beating up on Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels’ sorry team all season, as the Phillies, at 29-62, entered the All-Star break with their most pre-break losses in history.
Well, someone must have messed up the itinerary, because in the first two games of this series it’s been the Marlins looking like the team that cures all ills, not the Phillies. Dan Jennings’ team dug a quick three-run hole for itself —in part because of some shaky defense — then spent the rest of the night hitting the ball hard but with little to show for it.
The result was a 3-1 loss, dropping the Marlins to 38-53, matching a season-low 15 games under .500. Now all they have to do to avoid the sweep and a new low at the same time is beat Hamels in Sunday’s series finale. Hamels has been on the trading block and might well be making his final home appearance for the Phillies.
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They’ll worry about that soon enough, after being blanked for five innings by former Dodgers All-Star Chad Billingsley, making his way back after missing nearly two seasons with injuries, then failing to come up with the big hit against four relievers. That spoiled a solid effort from Tom Koehler, who retired the last 12 hitters he faced after struggling early.
But the 3-0 hole they fell into on first-inning RBI singles by Howard and Domonic Brown, followed by an unearned run in the second inning, was too much for the Fish — desperately missing the injured Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon — to overcome.
“We had 13 well-hit balls but very little to show for it,’’ said frustrated manager Dan Jennings, whose club went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. “Usually 10 is enough, but seemed like everything hit hard was right at somebody.’’
Then, in the one inning the Marlins seemed to have something going, a baserunning blunder by usually heady Martin Prado virtually killed the rally.
Left-hander Jake Diekman, taking over for Billingsley in the sixth, was greeted by Ichiro Suzuki’s single and a stolen base, then Prado’s double just inside the right-field line to make it 3-1.
Christian Yelich followed with a ball deep in the hole between short and third, which likely would’ve gone for an infield single.
The problem was Prado read the play wrong, which enabled Freddy Galvis to field the ball and easily nail him at third. Two strikeouts later the inning was over.
“I felt I was too aggressive,” admitted Prado, who had three hits — including two doubles — in his second game back since coming off the disabled list. “With no outs it’s not necessary to go to third base.
“That was going to be a tough play for the shortstop. It’s one of those things where if you haven’t played for a month it catches up to you.’’
It all seems to be catching up with the Marlins these days. They are now 14-30 on the road, with a three-game series in Arizona following this one. They had one final chance to get back in it in the eighth with runners on second and third and two outs, but right-hander Ken Giles blew a 100-mile-per-hour fastball past Adeiny Hechavarria to end the threat.
After yielding a leadoff single to Derek Dietrich to start the ninth, the embattled Jonathan Papelbon, booed by the crowd after pleading his case to be traded at the All-Star Game, got down to business to record his 15th save and send the Marlins back to their hotel wondering what’s going on.
Instead of this being Lourdes for the Marlins, suddenly they’ve become chicken soup for a Phillies team that hadn’t won two in a row since late June.