PHILADELPHIA -- Because his team is jostling with the Braves for the top spot in the National League East, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has admitted that he keeps an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard during games. The lights on the right-field wall Saturday at Citizens Bank Park showed that the
PHILADELPHIA -- Because his team is jostling with the Braves for the top spot in the National League East, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has admitted that he keeps an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard during games. The lights on the right-field wall Saturday at Citizens Bank Park showed that the Braves lost to the Mets -- good news for Kapler and most the 35,194 fans in attendance.
But the Mets' win, coupled with an 8-3 Marlins loss to Philadelphia, meant Miami fell into sole possession of last place in the East. They have dropped five straight and nine of their last 12.
"You look at us, and you look at them," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "You've got guys that know they're in a pennant race. Other guys, our side, really know they're not. We gotta find out who will grind and who will continue to battle."
Mattingly and his players pointed out that they've had chances to win recent games; they took a lead into the ninth inning on Thursday. Saturday's contest, though, had the Phillies up three runs before Marlins starter Jose Urena could record an out. It didn't get closer.
Is it hard to find motivation?
"I'm not going go down that road because we've lost a few games in a row," Mattingly said. "Our guys have played hard, and they've battled. As long as we will continue that, I'm definitely not going to go down that road with this club because I feel like they've been a team that has kind of scratched and clawed all year long."
The Marlins dropped to 20-39 on June 3 but played .500 baseball that month. They played just a game worse than even in July.
Recently, the Marlins have lost that form. They did not reach base through four innings against Phillies starter Zach Eflin, who needed just 40 pitches to barrel through the first 12 Marlins hitters. His 41st pitch, a fastball to Justin Bour, landed in the center-field bushes in the fifth inning. But at that point it was 5-1. When Miguel Rojas smacked a two-run shot, his first homer since May 20, in the eighth, it was 8-3.
In his 71st career start, Urena allowed three home runs for the first time. He has now allowed five earned runs or more in four of his last seven starts. His ERA rose to 4.66. It never went above above 3.96 -- save for one start -- during his breakout, 14-win 2017 campaign.
"There will be ups and downs," Urena said, "so you have to pull yourself through and keep going out there."
The Marlins have 50 games left, and they will look to avoid a four-game sweep on Sunday. The Phillies, meanwhile, will try to expand their 1 1/2-game lead atop the division.
"I don't think that they're playing for something bigger than us," Rojas said. "We're playing for this organization, we're playing for the club, and we're playing for our pride. What is better than that?"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Urena, burned by the long ball, allowed six earned runs on eight hits in five innings. Nick Williams turned on a fastball in the first inning for three early runs. Asdrubal Cabrera launched a two-run shot in the third. Carlos Santana led off the fifth by putting a ball in the right-field second deck. Cesar Hernandez took Jarlin Garcia deep in the sixth.
Eflin went eight innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits while striking out six and walking none.
"It's really hard to come back against a couple runs when you have to face a guy that is throwing the ball well," Rojas said.
With Isaac Galloway, Magneuris Sierra and Brian Anderson, the Marlins started three rookie outfielders for the first time since Sept. 29, 2010, when Logan Morrison, Scott Cousins and Giancarlo Stanton manned Miami's outfield against Atlanta at Turner Field. That's so long ago that Stanton still preferred Mike as his first name.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bour halted Eflin's budding bid for perfection on the first pitch of the fifth inning. The home run was Bour's 18th of the year. It traveled 413 feet and left Bour's bat at 107 mph, according to Statcast™.
HE SAID IT
"For me, I'm one of the guys to go back to the hotel or go back home tomorrow and think about what's been happening and try to fix it and try to clean the team, the little things, up. But I feel, for me, it's really hard to tell right now if there's something going on." -- Rojas, on the team's recent slump
The Marlins swapped Dan Straily for Wei-Yin Chen in Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET series finale at Citizens Bank Park because Chen has a 10.27 ERA on the road this year. Straily (4-5, 4.41 ERA) struggled his last time out, allowing eight runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings at Atlanta, but it was the first time he failed to pitch into the sixth since June 19. The Phillies will start their ace, Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.35).
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.