MIAMI -- The Phillies watched the Braves implode in spectacular fashion on the TVs inside the visitors' clubhouse Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park. They roared with approval.
But after Atlanta squandered that six-run lead in the eighth inning and allowed that soul-crushing homer in the ninth to lose to the Red Sox at SunTrust Park, the Phillies could not take care of business against the Marlins. They lost a few hours later, 2-1, to remain three games behind the National League East-leading Braves with 23 games to play.
The Phillies have not won a series in a month.
"I think at the end of the day, if we take care of what we need to do -- if we play the way that we can -- we're going to be right where we need to be regardless of what they're doing," Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins said. "Yeah, obviously, we were watching the game. But I think we're focused on what we need to do on the field to come away with a win each night."
The Phillies tried. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler started Carlos Santana at third base for the first time since May 22, 2014, so he could play Justin Bour at first base. He started Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. It was the team's best offensive lineup against Marlins rookie Sandy Alcantara, albeit with Jorge Alfaro starting over Wilson Ramos.
But the hits never came. The Phillies had just two and trailed 2-0 after four innings, so Kapler pinch-hit for Nick Pivetta in the fifth. Roman Quinn walked to start the eighth, but he got doubled up on Santana's soft line drive to Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro.
"I know I'm supposed to freeze on a line drive," Quinn said. "I took a step forward when I should've taken a step back. It's just bad baserunning on my part."
Naturally, pinch-hitter Jose Bautista followed with a double. He later scored on Cabrera's single, but Hoskins struck out swinging to end the inning. Hoskins is hitting .170 with five homers, 12 RBIs and a .618 OPS in 30 games since Aug. 4. He has been streaky this year. He had an incredible April but struggled in May. Hoskins rebounded with a strong June and July only to be stuck in his current slump.
"I think what separates the good from the great is consistency," Hoskins said. "And consistency, I think, is learned. It comes with experience. Not that I'm making an excuse at all, I just think the more experience you have, the more you learn how to get yourself out of ruts when you find yourself in a rut."
Hoskins said he learned from his previous slumps that "you can get out of it. It's not going to last forever. Obviously, I have proven that before. We've proven that as a team before. We're going to be just fine."
Twenty-three games is a decent amount of baseball to play, but at some point, the Phillies need to start hitting and playing better. They resume action Friday against the Mets, another 2018 nemesis. The Phillies are a combined 14-15 against the Marlins and Mets. The Braves are 26-9 against them.
It could be the difference between making the postseason and not making the postseason.
"I don't know. I don't know what it is," Hoskins said about their struggles against the Marlins. "Sometimes you can't really put your finger on that. Sometimes it's just a year-to-year thing. For whatever reason this year, we haven't been able to put them away when we've had the opportunity."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Phillies pulled Pivetta after two runs in four innings because they needed offense. But after Alfaro singled to right field to start the fifth inning, pinch-hitter Odubel Herrera grounded the first pitch into a 4-6-3 double play. Herrera is batting .221 with 14 home runs, 35 RBIs and a .645 OPS in 86 games since May 20.
"That's the opportunity to try to get a baserunner," Kapler said. "Odubel was aggressive and put a good swing on the ball. He just beat it into the ground. But the other part of the equation is we have a lot of confidence in the bullpen to put up zeros. They've kind of been the backbone for us, very, very dependable. Especially with the off-day coming up, we felt like we needed to keep it right where it was, not allow them to score one additional run and obviously try to generate as much offense as possible."
One last chance: The Phillies had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth, but pinch-hitter Pedro Florimon struck out on nine pitches and Quinn fanned on seven pitches to end the game. Florimon is 0-for-17 with 14 strikeouts in his career as a pinch-hitter.
Tommy Hunter pitched two scoreless innings in relief. Since the beginning of July, Hunter is 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA (eight earned runs in 30 innings) and two saves in 27 appearances.
HE SAID IT
"At the end of the day, I still have a job to do. We're trying to win baseball games over here, and not letting external things affect what's going on here is most important. I walked some guys I shouldn't have walked, hit some batters I shouldn't have it. Lost the game." -- Pivetta
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Marlins won a challenge in the second that helped them score the game's first run. Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson hit a ground ball to Cabrera, who threw to first for the inning's second out. But the Marlins challenged the call, which was overturned because Brinson's foot touched first base before the ball hit the interior of Bour's glove. Derek Dietrich scored from third base on the next play -- an RBI fielder's choice. The ball never left the infield in the inning.
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola (15-4, 2.23 ERA) faces Mets left-hander Steven Matz (5-11, 4.20 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Citi Field. The Phillies shuffled their rotation to have Nola start the first game, but in part because it allows him to face the Braves twice in the season's final 11 contests.