The temperature reached 95 degrees — and felt even hotter than that — as they celebrated “Christmas in July” here on Sunday.
Ever cooperative, the Marlins decided to join in with the spirit of the occasion, as closer A.J. Ramos played Santa and served Jeff Francoeur a gift slider down the middle in the bottom of the ninth while trying to protect a one-run lead. Francoeur gratefully crushed it deep into the seats in left for a two-run walk-off homer, giving the last-place Phillies an 8-7 victory and an improbable sweep of the weekend series.
In the process, it dropped the Marlins (38-54) to a season-high 16 games below .500 and to a horrible 14-31 on the road, with trips to Arizona and San Diego looming before they come home. But for manager Dan Jennings, who praised his club for battling from behind twice before it all unraveled, it was simply a bad ending to a brutal series.
“The first two games we didn’t take care of the ball,’’ said Jennings, referring to both mental and physical errors that killed them Friday and Saturday, before what seemed on the verge of being a stirring victory turned ugly. “We had some sloppy play, and that put us in a hole.
“[Sunday] we showed some heart and battled back. Obviously, getting swept here is not exactly what we had in mind. Now it’s up to us to have pride and continue on this road trip and take care of our business.
“We were in a situation [Sunday] where we had a chance to close out a game and win it. It didn’t happen.’’
They were in that position thanks to banging out 14 hits, including three by Ichiro Suzuki for the first time since he joined the Marlins. Most of the hits came against Cole Hamels, who looked nowhere near the ace left-hander said to be at the top of everyone’s wish list on the trade market.
Hamels, whose teammates had scored only six runs while he has been on the mound during his previous eight starts — all winless — must have gone into shock when the Phillies jumped on Dan Haren for five runs in the second to take a 5-2 lead, with homers from Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis.
After giving up a pair of runs in the top of the second Hamels promptly surrendered the lead during a three-run third, with Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria and Cole Gillespie knocking in runs to tie it at 5. That proved to be it for Hamels, who didn’t come out for the fourth.
Meanwhile, Haren surprised even himself by recovering from that disastrous second to last six innings.
“This was one of the hottest games I ever played [in],’’ admitted Haren, who changed undershirts every inning while trying to keep cool. “It was nasty, hard to breathe.
“It was almost dangerous. So I’m somewhat proud of the way I stayed in the game.
“But it was a tough loss, for sure.’’
Especially for Ramos, who blew only his second save since taking over the closer’s role from Steve Cishek.
“When you get behind in the count like that it’s easy to narrow down the pitches,’’ said Ramos, who walked leadoff hitter Carlos Ruiz before Francoeur teed off on the 1-0 slider right in his wheelhouse. “I have a lot of pitches, but [when] none of them are going for strikes it’s easy to know what’s coming.
“Even the pitch to Francoeur, I wasn’t able to locate. I definitely wasn’t sharp [having not pitched since July 12]. But when you go out there they’re just asking you to get the job done.
“I wasn’t able to do it [Sunday].’’
But Jennings didn’t hesitate, saying he’ll go right back to Ramos, who hadn’t allowed a run since June 9.
“A.J.’s done such a great job,” said Jennings, who liked the way his team swung the bats, with Hechavarria, Gillespie, Ichiro, Martin Prado and Miguel Rojas getting a combined 12 hits. “He centered the ball, and Francoeur got it. But A.J. has been nails all year. I hope I get the chance [Monday] to run him right back out there.’’
More importantly, he hopes Christmas in July is over.