The Phillies can clinch second place with just one more victory in the final three games of the series.
Expected to challenge the Atlanta Braves’ reign in the NL East, the Phillies and Marlins have both had disappointing seasons and dropped out of the playoff race within the past week.
Pat Burrell went 4-for-4 on Thursday, including a tiebreaking two-run single in Philadelphia’s six-run seventh inning, to lead the Phillies to a 7-4 win in the series opener.
The Phillies have won nine of their last 11, and their 19-8 record in September was second only to Houston (20-7) in the majors. The surge has just come too late to make a difference.
“It’s unfortunate we’re out of it because we’re playing real good,” Burrell said.
The Phillies had lost 11 of their first 12 games against Florida this season before sweeping a three-game set at Pro Player Stadium last week. They’ll look for a similar performance as they try to solidify their hold on second place in the division.
“Obviously we’re not where we want to be, but (second) is better than fourth or fifth,” manager Larry Bowa said. “You try to set goals as high as you can, but if that’s not attainable, you drop them.”
Like the Phillies, Cory Lidle will be trying to end his season on a positive note.
Lidle is 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA over his past six starts. The 32-year-old right-hander allowed one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Expos.
“I was getting ahead of hitters, throwing strikes with my off-speed pitches and forcing them to make contact,” Lidle said.
The Marlins, the defending World Series champions, had won three straight before Thursday. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and starter Dontrelle Willis left with a 4-1 lead after allowing a double to Tomas Perez and single to Marlon Byrd to start the seventh.
“A tough loss most definitely,” Willis said. “They battled back.”