The Phillies used a three-run rally in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game before Jake Diekman loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and allowed the winning run to score in a 4-3 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park. It dropped the Phillies to 20-24, which puts them a game behind their 2013 pace, when they lost 89 games and missed the postseason for the second consecutive year.
The Phillies simply cannot get on a roll.
"I haven't noticed a frustration," Cole Hamels said afterward. "I know we need to start doing it. ... There has to be some urgency, because we're supposed to win. We're all veteran guys. This team is built to win now, not later."
The Phillies return to Philadelphia to open an 11-game homestand against the Dodgers, Rockies and Mets.
It is a big stretch for them. The homestand takes them through June 2, which means less than two months before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Two months might seem like a lot of time, but the players need to give the front office a clearer picture of their abilities to contend for the postseason long before that. Because right now, they are four games under .500 and fourth in the National League East, and if the right deal presents itself in the next month or so, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could be tempted to send one of his top players packing in a nod toward the future.
The Phillies had a chance to open the homestand with a little momentum on their side. After scoring 20 runs in a pair of victories over the weekend against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils took the first game of the series Tuesday before a blowout loss Wednesday.
But following Thursday's loss, they must get back on track Friday against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
"We haven't been able to come together at the right time," said Hamels, who allowed three runs in seven innings. "I know it's close and I don't think you want to have a sense where guys are putting more pressure on themselves than they need to be. But I know it's a matter of time before it will happen. I know personally it should happen soon."
Diekman had allowed one run on six hits and four walks while striking out 16 in 13 1/3 innings over his previous 11 appearances, lowering his ERA from 8.38 to 3.91, before allowing the game-winning hit to Christian Yelich.
Diekman had a runner on first with two outs when he allowed a two-out single to Jeff Mathis. Reed Johnson followed with a slow roller between the mound and third-base line. Diekman tried to make a play on the ball, but he could not field it cleanly, loading the bases.
"I feel like I should have made it," Diekman said. "I don't know if I tried to rush it too much or not. But that [really stinks]. It basically lost the game right there. Could have been the third out."
Yelich followed with the game-winning hit to center.
Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez allowed four hits, two walks and struck out three in seven scoreless innings, but the Phillies had their chances. They had runners on first and second with one out in the first, but could not score. Hamels singled to center to start the third, but he was thrown out at third base by right fielder Marcell Ozuna for the first out of the inning as Jimmy Rollins followed with a single to center.
"He probably made the best throw he's made all year," Hamels said. "It happens. I know it's in a situation, where it wasn't like the third out. You can kind of afford to do that."
Hamels allowed a run in the sixth to make it 1-0 and a two-run home run to Ozuna in the seventh to make it 3-0.
But the Marlins' bullpen handed the game back. Right-hander A.J. Ramos walked Rollins to start the eighth, and two batters later, left-hander Mike Dunn allowed a double to Chase Utley to put runners on second and third. Ryan Howard's sacrifice fly scored Rollins to make it 3-1.
Marlon Byrd followed, crushing a 1-0 fastball deep to center field for a two-run home run to tie the game. It was Byrd's sixth homer of the season, and it was a big one.
"I was going full speed out of the box," Byrd said. "The ball doesn't carry out there, so I wasn't expecting it to go. That was everything I have."
"When Byrd hit that ball, initially, I didn't think he got it that good," Dunn said.
But in the end, the Phillies came up short again. It has happened too many times this season, which is why they are where they are. They return home hoping to finally play the way Hamels believes they will play in time.