FIRST, the good news.
Cole Hamels did not allow a home run and Chase Utley ended his weeklong drought without a hit last night against the Miami Marlins.
Hamels had entered the night leading the major leagues with seven home runs allowed through three starts, already halfway to his 2014 total. Utley was flirting with breaking whatever they call the line that is 100 points lower than the Mendoza line - the Michael Martinez line?
Utley got his hit out of the way early and Hamels labored through six innings, but pitched well enough to put the Phillies in position to collect their third win in their last four games.
The Phillies did not collect their third win in their last four games.
With two on, one out and an 0-2 count to Martin Prado, reliever Luis Garcia balked in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Shortly afterward, circus music might as well have played over the Citizens Bank Park speakers, as a one-run game turned into an embarrassing 6-1 loss at the hands of the Marlins.
"It's frustrating," said Garcia, who buckled his back leg on the balk when the baserunner broke early. "It's OK. Tomorrow is another day."
Garcia hadn't allowed a run in 13 straight appearances dating back to last year. In the eighth, the play was long forgotten.
The ugliest half inning of Philadelphia baseball in recent memory began when Utley became the third veteran player to drop a routine ball. With two on and two out in the eighth, and the Marlins holding on to a 2-1 lead, pinch-hitter Geoff Baker hit a sharp ground ball to third base. Cody Asche fielded it cleanly and threw to second for the forceout . . . but Utley couldn't come up with the ball.
"Looked like he either took his eye off of it or anticipated he already caught it," manager Ryne Sandberg said.
"Bottom line, that play has to be made," Utley said.
Five pitches later, with the bases loaded, Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon launched a ball to deep center. Converted infielder Odubel Herrera, playing shallow, gave it a run, then twisted, turned and did everything but trip over his spikes as the ball landed over his head, made its way to the wall, and brought all three runners across the plate.
Following Utley's gaffe, Herrera's three-base error turned a 2-1 Marlins lead into a 5-1 Marlins lead.
"I think it was a tough play, with where he started from and the ground that he had to travel to get to the ball," Sandberg said.
"I'm getting better jumps on the ball and better reads," said Herrera, who played only 13 games in the outfield in six minor league seasons before 2015. "It's something that just happened. I'm going to work on it."
The Phillies finished the night with three errors. All three led to runs.
The first came in the second inning, when Hamels and former Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart were in the early going of a pitchers' duel.
With one on and one out, Cosart hit a hard ground ball in between first and second, just out of Ryan Howard's reach. Utley backed up the play, however, and Hamels covered first. Hamels did not, however, catch the routine throw, and the Marlins took a 1-0 lead.
"That was all on me," Hamels said. "Chase gave me a great throw, and I wasn't able to catch it. Hopefully, with all of that, hopefully we got them all out of the way. Because we don't make errors, especially the routine ones."
The Phillies got the run back a half inning later, when Asche hit a solo home run. They also lucked out when another dropped ball brought the most dangerous hitter in the ballpark to bat in the fifth inning.
With two on and no one out, Prado hit a foul ball down the first-base line. Howard gave chase, but Utley bore down at the last second and appeared to spook Howard, who watched the ball carom off his glove.
Giancarlo Stanton followed with a very loud, long out to rightfield. The announced crowd of 23,417 gasped.
Later, they'd be organizing sarcastic cheers for the Eagles and Sixers (what, no love for the Flyers?) when a once tight, taut contest turned into a bad sequel of a "Bad News Bears" movie.
"We didn't do too much right tonight," Sandberg said.
Although deep pitch counts cost him the ability to go deep into the game, Hamels allowed one unearned run in six innings. The Phillies' offense scored one run for him, though, and has scored a grand total of six runs for him in four games this season.
Since the beginning of 2013, the Phillies have scored two runs or fewer in 27 of the 67 games Hamels has started (40 percent of his starts).
"It would have been nice to get that one run early to set that tone from yesterday's game," Sandberg said of stranding a runner on third with less than two outs in the first inning. "Cole has a hard time getting run support, getting a chance to pitch with a lead. He really feels like he has to be perfect. Maybe that has something to do with pitches being just off the plate and him not being able to just pound the zone."