With the dawn of summer upon us, grill coals cooling, weekends at the beach house coming to sticky, dehydrated conclusions, and the Nationals and Giants sparking a brief, uncoordinated skirmish, the Phillies were sent out onto the field of Marlins Park in Miami to bring the Memorial Day holiday to a close.
We can trace most threads of this game to and from the events of the sixth inning, which were not so interesting - especially to viewers who had been watching Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse collide in slow motion all afternoon - but nonetheless made up the throbbing nucleus of discontent that brought the Phillies to their end on this particular Monday.
It was the top of the sixth, and Giancarlo Stanton was thundering toward foul territory, glove outstretched, only for the ball to ricochet off his glove. Depending on where the deep Tommy Joseph bloop had landed, the Phillies runners on second and third with one out could make the 2-0 Marlins lead a tie game. But the ball was labeled foul the whole way, meaning nobody moved, except for Larry Bowa, who reached for the dugout phone and gained approval for Pete Mackanin to issue a challenge. He did so, but the call was accurately confirmed with a casual shrug.
Aaron Altherr, after singling into fair territory had given the Phillies their run, but was then thrown out stealing second base on a closer play than the one for which Pete Mackanin had placed his challenge hot dog on the dugout steps (I forget how this process works) moments before. But the prior sequence of events meant the Phillies were unable to contest the “out” call at second base. That gave them two outs with a runner on third, meaning it was less of an “opportunity” and more of a “salvage.” Tommy Joseph swung and missed to strike out, clearing the board and keeping things at 2-1. It was not the ending of the frame many had hoped to see, following Jeremy Hellickson’s lead-off walk and Cesar Hernandez’s obnoxiously deep double to center.
That disappointing series of events was compounded ten or so minutes later, after Hellickson had logged two quick outs, only for a J.T. Realmuto single to land just out of reach of Altherr, who managed to smother the ball with an outstretched glove. Neither he nor any other outfielder were able to do anything about the subsequent Derek Dietrich homer that dropped between the wall and the bleachers moments later, creating a 4-1 lead for Miami and further feeding the silent rage monster living and growing inside Hellickson.
Hellickson threw six innings, allowing six hits, four earned runs, and two walks, with a pair of K’s. He got menaced by strategically-placed, slow-moving grounders in the first inning, and the sixth clearly did him no favors. That was all the Marlins would need to beat up on this silent gaggle of Phillies hitters, who went 1-for-5 with RISP and left five runners stranded. The Phillies managed four hits in total, thanks to Brock Stassi’s infield single in the eighth that was followed by two swinging K’s. Howie Kendrick made his return to the Phillies lineup, scooting around left field like a man whose oblique is at last in one piece and going 1-for-4 at the plate.
Altherr worked a walk in the ninth, bless his heart, but Tommy Joseph and Michael Saunders killed any potential rally with feverish, impatient strikeouts faster than you can say “looks like it’s up to Cameron Rupp.”
Rupp struck out too. The Phillies are in danger of losing their eighth straight series.
It’s going to be a long summer.