Score one for American High School.
Marlins rookie left-hander Justin Nicolino was four outs away from what would have been his first shutout when his effort was spoiled by a local player — American’s Darnell Sweeney — whose first major-league hit ignited the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sweeney, a switch-hitter, homered to left-center, spurring the Phillies to a 4-2 victory over Miami at Marlins Park.
Marlins reliever Bryan Morris replaced Nicolino with one on and two out in the eighth inning and gave up a game-tying double on a 1-2 pitch to Phillies third baseman Andres Blanco.
In the ninth, Marlins closer A.J. Ramos (1-4) gave up back-to-back solo homers to Aaron Altherr and Darin Ruf to take the loss.
Nicolino, who pitched a career-high 72/3 innings in just his fifth major-league start, got a no-decision, allowing five hits, one walk and two runs.
Marlins left fielder Derek Dietrich was the early hitting star. After the Marlins loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning, Dietrich hit the first pitch for a two-run double halfway up the wall in left. He likely would have gotten three RBI on the play except for the fact that slow-footed first baseman Justin Bour was on the bases and was held up at third.
The Phillies tied the score with a two-out, two-run rally in the eighth. The scoring started when Sweeney, working as a pinch-hitter, homered on the first pitch he saw.
Ironically, Sweeney, who was 0 for 2 in the majors before that at-bat, was the Marlins’ 41st-round pick in 2009, passing up their offer to play for the University of Central Florida.
“Everything came full circle,” said his father, Darnell Sweeney Sr., a native of the Virgin Islands who coached his son from age 4 until high school on the Miramar Angels travel team.
Sweeney, who was acquired last week in the deal that sent six-time All-Star second baseman Chase Utley to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is versatile but believes his best position might eventually be center field. He played shortstop all through high school and college, but has mostly played second base and center field this year.
“We worked him out at third base and second base [in Friday’s pre-game drills],” Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said last week. “He’s an athletic guy. I liked the way he looked in the infield, and that’s a start. We’ve gotten him a couple at-bats [0 for 2 as a pinch-hitter], and at some point I want to [start] him in a game.”
No matter what spot he plays, though, Sweeney said he is “pumped” to get this opportunity in the majors, especially the way it came about.
“Utley is a multiple-time All-Star,” Sweeney said. “The fact that [the Phillies] thought I was pretty good value in a trade for Utley — that gives weight to the whole situation. I’m blessed that it happened.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Dee Gordon, who entered Saturday leading the NL with a .338 batting average, is trying to become the first second baseman to win a batting title since Jackie Robinson in 1949.
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▪ RHP Jarred Cosart (vertigo) pitched a rehab game on Saturday, tossing 60 pitches and topping out at 95 mph. Marlins manager Dan Jennings said Cosart probably needs two more rehab starts before he is ready to return to the team.
▪ Outfielder Cole Gillespie, who sprained his left wrist while attempting a diving catch on Friday, took batting practice and will not miss any time.
▪ Right-hander Carter Capps will throw his second bullpen session on Sunday and then progress toward a rehab stint, likely at Class A Jupiter. Jennings said Capps is about a week away from returning and would like to see him throw on back-to-back days in Jupiter.
▪ Sunday: Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (3-1, 4.41 ERA) at Marlins LHP Adam Conley (1-0, 5.82), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday: Pirates LHP J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.87) at Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (8-11, 4.02), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.