A frustrating road trip ended with the Philadelphia Phillies hoping they had regained some momentum in the NL East race despite finishing it with a disappointing loss.
Philadelphia returns home Monday to open a three-game series against the Florida Marlins, who are hoping to use the next three days to also move back into contention for the division title.
The Phillies (78-65) are opening a seven-game homestand following a 5-5 road trip. They began that stretch a half-game behind the New York Mets in the division, but are now two games back. Philadelphia had the opportunity to move into a tie atop the division after winning the first two games of the series, including the opener of Sunday’s doubleheader 6-2, but it dropped the second game, 6-3.
Cole Hamels gave up five runs over five innings in the nightcap, while Ryan Howard homered and drove in two runs, becoming the first hitter in Phillies’ history to hit 40 home runs in three consecutive seasons.
“I wasn’t able to do my part,” he said.
Howard was 3-for-10 in the series with three strikeouts. He came in hitting .341 (14-for-41) with five doubles and five home runs in the previous 10 games.
The Phillies and Marlins have split their six games played in Philadelphia this season. These next three could be the Marlins’ last chance to get back into the division race.
Florida is eight games behind the Mets and six games behind the Phillies in the East. Philadelphia and Florida have another three-game series in Miami Sept. 19-21.
“They are a team ahead of us in the division, but we have a chance to catch them if we run off a string of wins,” said Anibal Sanchez (2-3, 5.54 ERA), who will start Monday for the Marlins. “One win could lead to another, so we’ll see.”
The Marlins lost two of three over the weekend to the Cardinals, falling 3-1 on Sunday. Mike Jacobs hit his 30th homer, but Josh Johnson put them in an early hole, allowing two runs in the first inning.
“I think anytime you hit 30 home runs in a year, it’s pretty big,” Jacobs said. “Guys aren’t hitting 60 or 70 anymore.”
Jacobs and the Marlins will face right-hander Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.34) for the first time on Monday. Blanton is making his 10th start for Philadelphia since being acquired on July 17 from the Oakland Athletics. The Phillies are 5-4 with Blanton on the mound. He pitched four innings last Wednesday against the Nationals and allowed four runs and six hits in a 9-7 loss.
Sanchez, meanwhile, is 0-1 with a 8.79 ERA in his last three starts. Last Tuesday against Atlanta, he lasted only three innings, allowing six runs and eight hits in a 16-14 loss. The right-hander, who was called up July 31 after recovering from right shoulder surgery, did not factor in the decision.
Sanchez is 0-2 with a 8.79 ERA in three starts against the Phillies, including one this year. On Aug. 6, he pitched five innings against them, allowing four runs—three earned—in a 5-0 loss.