PHILADELPHIA -- Wei-Yin Chen doesn't pay attention to what month it is. He doesn't care where he's playing. His routine does not change if the mound from which he throws is at Marlins Park or any of the other 29 Major League venues.But for some reason, Chen has struggled away
PHILADELPHIA -- Wei-Yin Chen doesn't pay attention to what month it is. He doesn't care where he's playing. His routine does not change if the mound from which he throws is at Marlins Park or any of the other 29 Major League venues.
But for some reason, Chen has struggled away from Miami in 2018. Even after having one of the better stretches of his career, Chen's road problems resurfaced in the Marlins' 14-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
"Tonight, including my command and everything, it was bad," Chen said through a team interpreter. "I just pitched bad. I should have made some adjustments, but I couldn't, so that brings some damage to the team, and we couldn't come back."
Chen lasted just four innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. The Phillies took him deep twice in the second inning and piled on three more homers against Miami's bullpen. The deficit got large enough that Marlins manager Don Mattingly elected to deploy catcher John Holaday to get Miami's final three outs.
Part of that falls on a lineup that could not figure out Phillies starter Zach Eflin, who spaced five hits and a walk across 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The Marlins left nine runners on base, including two in the third. Eflin struck out both Miguel Rojas and J.T. Realmuto to escape that jam.
"We had a chance there early. We got some guys out there," Mattingly said. "[We] don't score to get back in the game, and other than that, we didn't really have a whole lot of chances."
The Phillies then added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, and Chen, who has now allowed 14 home runs in 51 1/3 innings on the road this season, again found himself in a bad spot before the game reached its midpoint.
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That's why, when the Marlins were here in early August, the club pushed Chen's next start back a day. He had struggled mightily away from Marlins Park up to that point, posting a 10.27 ERA in nine road starts, and the Marlins saw no sense in fighting what was an obvious, yet perplexing trend. That allowed Chen to throw the opener of their ensuing homestand, where he blanked the visiting Cardinals over 5 2/3 innings.
The decision proved even more effective when Chen followed up his fine outing against St. Louis by barreling through the rest of August with a 1.54 ERA, the best monthly ERA in his career (minimum four starts). That success rolled over into September, when he opened the month by allowing just one run over eight innings against the Blue Jays to tie the longest start of his career. And while Chen didn't have the same luck his last time out, surrendering three earned runs in four innings at Pittsburgh, he didn't dig Miami into too deep of a hole.
That was not the case on Friday. Chen escaped the first inning unscathed despite walking two. He was not as fortunate in the second. After Carlos Santana knocked a leadoff single, Aaron Altherr turned on Chen's payoff pitch -- his first of two home runs on the night. Chen just narrowly missed a called strike three the pitch before.
"I don't know if that changes anything, but obviously, we couldn't really stop them in any way shape or form," Mattingly said.
Roman Quinn added a solo shot three batters later. Tayron Guerrero, Javy Guerra and Holaday each allowed three earned runs in an inning each of relief. The Marlins' only offense came via Realmuto's solo shot in the sixth and off Scott Kingery's error in the seventh that scored Austin Dean.
None of these instances were the sole reason the Marlins went on to lose by 12 on Friday. That matters little, because Miami is more than 12 games behind the next closest team in the division standings. But, for Chen, that's hardly consolation as he searches for answers at the tail end of a frustrating season.
"I guess I probably need to do some more homework for the games on the road," Chen said. "Maybe that's what I need to do."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Speed over power: Chen loaded the bases in the fourth by surrendering three straight singles, but got Eflin to strike out for the inning's first out. Quinn, the eighth-fastest runner in baseball, according to Statcast™, then rolled a potential inning-ending double-play ball, but beat the throw to first base. Altherr, who took off from second base, took advantage of the focus on the first-base umpire's call and raced home to sneak his hand in on a nifty slide.
Realmuto ripped his 21st home run of the season in the sixth inning, when he sent the first pitch from Eflin into the seats in left-center field. The ball traveled a projected 422 feet, according to Statcast™, making it Realmuto's second longest homer of 2018. Realmuto has now hit 18 home runs as a catcher this season and needs just one more to tie Charles Johnson's franchise record set in 1997.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Facing a nine-run deficit in the eighth inning, Mattingly elected to put catcher Holaday on the mound for the second time this season rather than expend another relief pitcher the day before a bullpen game. Holaday allowed three earned runs on four hits, including Mitch Walding's 435-foot home run, the first hit of Walding's career.
When Rhys Hoskins -- who struck out against Holaday in April -- led off the frame with a double, Holaday tipped his cap and laughed.
"That's basically saving," Mattingly said. "We know what kind of game we've got tomorrow."
Realmuto will lead the Marlins' lineup into Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at Citizens Bank Park, which is slated to be a bullpen game for Miami. Mattingly did not name a probable starter after Friday's loss. The Phillies will start Vince Velasquez, who has 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA in six starts since throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Marlins on Aug. 3.
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.