MIAMI -- The Phillies had already blown a seven-run lead, lifted their starting pitcher on Friday night after just seven outs, and watched a reliever leave with a sore shoulder after throwing just two pitches.
It was a brutal start to a weekend that presented the Phillies a prime opportunity to boost their playoff stock. But then they scored twice, reclaimed the lead in the fourth inning, and let out a sigh of relief. The worst, the Phillies thought, was behind them. And they were wrong.
The Marlins scored eight runs in the next two innings as the Phillies suffered their worst loss of the season with a 19-11 defeat at Marlins Park. It was the first time since August 26, 2003 that the Phillies lost after leading by seven runs.
“I’m flat out embarrassed,” said Vince Velasquez, who allowed seven runs in the third inning as the Marlins tied the game.
The Phillies dressed Friday night in black pants, black jerseys, and black caps as they looked better suited for a funeral than a ball game. A loss like Friday’s could be the Irish wake for their playoff chances.
They survived last weekend’s series loss to the Padres by winning both games against the Red Sox. But blowing a seven-run lead to a team that had lost six straight games could be even harder to overcome. The calendar is another day closer to September and the Phillies are running out of time to make a run in a crowded wild-card race.
“Tough, tough loss. It’s a game we have to win,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Go up 7-0, we just didn’t make enough pitches. We weren’t able to put hitters away. We weren’t making enough plays on defense. We let a team back in the game that we shouldn’t have let back in the game. It’s that simple.”
Once they built their seven-run lead, the Phillies struggled to do much right. Two different third baseman botched ground balls, their pitchers were roughed up, and their lineup scored just two more runs before rallying with two outs and a 10-run deficit in the ninth. They were outscored, 19-4, after taking a 7-0 lead in the third.
“You recognize that it’s unacceptable,” Kapler said. “I think you just call that out. We have to do a better job. We have to find ways to do a better job and then we have to quickly turn the page and come back and be ready to play tomorrow. Probably the most important thing we can do right now is have a short memory. Understand that this one sucks and that we have to protect an early lead and be better than that and then come back tomorrow and be ready to play again.”
Scott Kingery hit a bases-loaded triple in the first inning and Corey Dickerson stroked a two-run double in the second. An inning later, the Phillies had tacked on another run for a 7-0 lead. The offense seemed able to survive without Bryce Harper, who was placed on paternity leave earlier in the day. A blowout win seemed like the perfect start to the weekend.
Instead, it would be a blowout loss. The Marlins tagged Velasquez for seven runs in the bottom of the third. Isan Diaz tied the game with a three-run homer and chased Velasquez after just 21/3 innings. The inning may had been preventable if Brad Miller, who started for Maikel Franco, was able to turn a double-play on a grounder to third before any damage was done. Juan Nicasio entered in relief, but grabbed his shoulder and left after two pitches.
“I take full responsibility for the outcome of the game,” Velasquez said. “As a pitcher you want that run support. What more do want than a 7-0 lead and you end up giving it up.”
Maikel Franco and Adam Haseley answered with RBI singles in the top of the fourth, but the Marlins responded with a five-run fifth. It was bad enough to blow a seven-run lead, but now the Phillies were being pummeled. Franco booted a possible inning-ending double-play ball, allowed two runs to score, and the Marlins scored two more times before Kapler removed Nick Pivetta.
The knockout blow came in the sixth when the Marlins scored three times against Ranger Suarez. The game was so out of reach that Gabe Kapler allowed Suarez to bat in the seventh inning with the Phillies down six runs. The Phillies started the game with a seven-run lead, but had a win-expectancy of 0.06% after Suarez’s strikeout.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Kapler said. “We have to play better.”
The Phillies landed here Thursday in the early morning hours as they flew through the night from Boston. A shortage of sleep was a bit easier to accept after two wins at Fenway Park seemed to invigorate the team. Friday night was the start of six straight games against the Marlins and Pirates, who entered the weekend with a combined 20-56 record since the all-star break.
It was a chance to keep the momentum going. If the Phillies could beat the defending world champions, surely they could handle two of baseball’s worst teams. A weekend in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood would be the springboard to the playoffs.