MIAMI - One or two or three misplaced pitches can ruin even the finest of performances, so on a night when Brett Myers admittedly struggled to locate his breaking ball, those miscues were particularly devastating.
"I threw bad pitches tonight that they didn't miss," Myers said.
The result was a 5-4 loss that snapped a sizzling team back to reality. After spending the off day pondering an opportunity to leave the Marlins seven games back in the standings, the Phillies must instead win the next two games to avoid losing ground.
A hungry Florida team is now 35-29 and three games back, and could pull to within one game with two more wins.
Myers, meanwhile, was left to dissect another disappointing outing.
While fans, the media and even his coaches spent much of the first 2 months of the season trying to find the answer to his struggles, this much was clear:
When things were going poorly for the righthander, he was giving up home runs. When he was pitching well, he was keeping the ball inside the park.
In his first nine starts, Myers allowed 15 home runs and posted a 5.91 ERA. In his last four starts, he allowed no home runs and posted a 3.62 ERA.
Last night, the long ball hurt him.
Three Marlins hit home runs, and none of them left any doubt.
Hanley Ramirez led off the game by sending a changeup into the leftfield seats. Two batters later, Jorge Cantu hit a two-run home run to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead.
"Actually the home run to Cantu wasn't a bad pitch," catcher Chris Coste said. "It was right in my mitt where he was trying to go, he just did a good job of hitting it."
That wasn't the case in the fifth inning.
The Phillies had just cut the score to 3-2 on a two-run home run by Jimmy Rollins, the first significant damage the lineup had managed to inflict on Marlins righthander Ricky Nolasco. It was somewhat of a gift, as the inning had been extended when Ramirez overthrew Mike Jacobs at first base, allowing Myers to reach on what should have been an inning-ending groundout.
Rollins took advantage, sending a 2-0 pitch into the seats in right-center.
But in the bottom half of the frame, Myers allowed a leadoff double to Cantu, then threw a hanging slider that Jacobs crushed for a two-run home run and pushed the Marlins ahead 5-2.
"I take full blame for that because you go out there and you have momentum and then I go out there and give up the two runs we just got back and it pretty much takes the air out of your sail," Myers said. "It wasn't a very good job."
The offense attempted to bail him out, but came up short.
Greg Dobbs, making his second straight start at third base in place of Pedro Feliz, hit a two-out single in the sixth that scored Pat Burrell and cut the lead to 5-3. Then, in the eighth, Burrell hit his 16th home run of the season, a solo shot to leftfield.
The Phillies had the winning run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, leaving open the possibility of yet another late-inning win. In a three-game sweep of Atlanta, they scored 10 of their 16 runs after the seventh inning.
But they couldn't pull it off this time.
After Burrell's homer and a walk by Geoff Jenkins, Dobbs struck out to end the eighth.
In the ninth, Jayson Werth led off with a single through the left side of the infield, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Carlos Ruiz. But Rollins flew out to leftfield and Shane Victorino grounded out - albeit sharply - to Jacobs to end the game.
Rollins, Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard combined to go 1-for-17 with three strikeouts.
"They had the lead and we couldn't catch them," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We had a chance, we just didn't catch them. The game we won in Atlanta, we caught them."
(1,284,961 votes) is still the leading vote-getter in National League All-Star balloting, ahead of Atlanta third baseman
by nearly 175,000 votes. Utley, the only second baseman in Phillies history to start two consecutive All-Star Games, has more than twice the number of votes as second-base runner-up
. . . Ryan Howard
, who is in fourth place at first base with 368,012, is well behind Lance
(700,777) . . .
, who is fifth at shortstop, is the only other Phillie in the top five his position. Rollins (442,884) is more than 200,000 votes behind leader
(726,835) and also trails