MIAMI —The Phillies tallied 11 hits on Thursday but weren’t able to build much momentum, ultimately falling, 4-3, to the Marlins in the first game of a four-game series.
“The real difference was the fourth inning, when we had a chance to get a couple more runs and didn’t cash in, and they cashed in,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That was the difference.”
Here are a few observations from the game.
Gibson struggles with control
Initially, it seemed like the Phillies would get another efficient performance out of right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson against the Marlins, similar to the one he’d given them against the A’s on April 9. Gibson started out strong, striking out the side in the first inning. But once he reached the fourth inning, his control began to waver.
“He was great the first three innings,” Girardi said. “He was fantastic. He was efficient. He just in some long counts, and a long inning in the fourth.”
Gibson’s first at-bat that inning lasted eight pitches. In his next at-bat, facing Garrett Cooper, he allowed a solo home run. In the following at-bat, Jesús Sánchez hit a triple off of Gibson — that, in Gibson’s defense, should have been caught by center fielder Matt Vierling. By the end of the fourth, he had allowed three runs, one walk, and had thrown 37 pitches — including one that veered behind Joey Wendle’s back.
“I got away from my fastball there in the fourth inning,” Gibson said. “That alone isn’t the issue, but when you’re not throwing strikes with your off-speed, you end up getting yourself behind. It’s kind of a two-sided issue there, yes, I got away from my fastball, which was pretty good in the first three innings, and when I did, I ended up throwing balls with the off-speed. It’s something I’m going to work on.”
Gibson couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, allowing two walks and a single before he was replaced by right-handed reliever Andrew Bellatti. After a rough start from Aaron Nola on Wednesday, Gibson’s struggles Thursday only exacerbated the Phillies’ lack of starting pitching depth. The right-hander threw 4⅔ innings Thursday, allowing five hits, including one home run, four earned runs, and three walks. He struck out six.
Vierling’s hitting woes continue
Vierling didn’t get as many regular at-bats last year as he’s getting early in the 2022 season, but he certainly made more of the at-bats he got back then. As a utility man last season, Vierling batted .324/.364/.479 across 71 at-bats in 34 games. In 2022, he has yet to record a hit. In 15 at-bats, he has recorded only one walk, has knocked in two runs, and has struck out three times.
“I mean, you see (the fact that you have no hits),” Vierling said. “But I feel like I’m having good at-bats. And I’m seeing the ball well and working counts. It’ll fall eventually. I’m just focusing on putting together good at-bats and doing what I can to help the team.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Sánchez hit a ball to deep center field that Vierling attempted to run down. It looked like he was going to get there; he stuck out his glove to retrieve it but missed it and crashed into the center-field wall instead. The only other center fielder currently on the 40-man is Símon Muzziotti, who has only four games worth (and one at-bat worth) of MLB experience. Mickey Moniak is on the 10-day IL, and Odúbel Herrera is in Clearwater, Fla., on a rehab assignment.
“I felt like I had one more step there,” Vierling said of the play. “I could’ve kept going. So next time, I just need to keep going.”
Hot streak for Realmuto
J.T. Realmuto had a three-game hitting streak entering Thursday that he quickly extended, tallying four hits and a two-out walk against the Marlins. Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long said in early March that he encouraged Realmuto to get closer to the hitting position and to tighten up his strike zone a little bit. The catcher worked with Long before and after the lockout, and the work appears to be paying off: Realmuto is now batting .360/.429/.520 over the first seven games of the season. At a time when some of the Phillies’ other power bats aren’t as hot, Realmuto’s performance counts for a lot.