Bullpen game upends Marlins; skid reaches 5

September 16th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- Don Mattingly knew Game No. 148 was going to be different. He declined to name a starter until a few hours before the 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch of Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Once was revealed as the choice, Mattingly ensured the left-hander would be replaced before he could bat. After that, the Marlins would "mix and match" their remaining 11 relievers -- 10 of which are right-handed -- to create better matchups.

"This is one of those games that could go really good or go really bad," the manager said in a pregame TV interview.

Mattingly wasn't bluffing; he pinch-hit for Garcia in the top of the second, a move that extended an eventual four-run frame. Madness ensued. Neither starter pitched into the third inning. Gabe Kapler dug deeper into the Phillies' bullpen than Mattingly did in his.

Forty-one players were used between the two teams. But one elevated fastball doomed the Marlins as their toying with baseball's latest experiment fizzled, keeping the 67-91 Marlins at the bottom of the National League and giving the Phillies their first series win since sweeping Miami here Aug. 2-5.

After Garcia was lifted, bad defense led to two unearned runs being charged to in the second. He recovered to pitch a 1-2-3 third, and Nick Wittgren did the same in the fourth. took a two-run lead into the fifth, but surrendered a three-run home run to to give the Marlins a deficit they would not surmount.

Aside from Rucinski, six Marlins pitchers combined to allow one hit. But the Phillies tasked seven relievers with seven innings, and they posted a shutout.

"The guys threw the ball good," Mattingly said. "The guys out of the bullpen threw the ball. It's just one of those games."

Tampa Bay has notably tested the idea of starting an "opener," like Miami's one-inning deployment of Garcia, for most of this season. It's worked, but the Marlins at this point are not in the same spot as the Rays. Miami is trying to develop young starters like and . Its bullpen has an MLB-worst 5.50 ERA. The Marlins only tried the unconventional tactic because Dan Straily's season is likely over and the rotation needed a fill.

But, with decent results Saturday night, could the Marlins try the strategy on their own terms at some point in the future?

"I think it's something that you have to keep an open mind to," Mattingly said. "I'm not sure you can do it over the course of the season. It depends on what kind of starters you have. If you've got four or five quality guys, I don't think it's something that you really want to do. But … if you've only got three starters, it's a way to go."


dropped a fly ball in left field in the second inning. Later in the frame, after Graves struck out both and , pinch-hitter ripped a two-out single off the glove of at third base to plate two unearned runs. 

"It looked like he made a nice little turn on that ball," Mattingly said of Dean. "He got going and got exactly what you want. He turned to glove side and looked like he just missed it. But we walked the first guy in that inning -- then they get that -- and walk another guy."


The Marlins scored four runs in the second inning off Phillies' starter Vince Velasquez, three of which came via JT Riddle's bases-clearing double. Riddle, with two doubles Saturday, went 2-for-4 for the second straight night. Since returning from left wrist soreness on Tuesday, Riddle has hit .400 with four RBIs and three extra-base hits.

"I'm getting good pitches to hit and I'm squaring them up," Riddle said. "That's baseball. It's a funny game."


"It's only in September that you can have a game like that. There's no way you do that during the season. You can have a game where you throw a guy an inning and you bring a guy in for four or five, but what we did today, and what they ended up doing, too, is something that really happens in September. And, to be quite honest with you, it shouldn't be able to happen. It's one of those things, too many guys. It's not really regular baseball." -- Mattingly


The Marlins close out their season series against the Phillies with a 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday matinee at Citizens Bank Park. Urena (6-12, 4.29 ERA) will take the mound for Miami and face right-hander (7-12, 4.64 ERA). Urena has won three of his last four starts, posting a 2.22 ERA and limiting opposing hitters to a .167 average during that span.