Marlins 8, Phillies 4
MIAMI (AP)—A visitor to the office of Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon offered congratulations late Thursday night.
“We didn’t do anything yet,” McKeon responded.
That’s not quite right. With an 8-4 victory, the surprising Marlins completed a sweep of their crucial three-game series against Philadelphia to clinch a tie for the NL wild card and eliminate the Phillies.
If the Marlins beat the New York Mets on Friday, they’ll earn their first playoff berth since winning the 1997 World Series.
“We’re not ready to celebrate,” said McKeon, 72, who has never managed in the postseason. “We haven’t completed our job.”
But the unaccustomed pressure of a playoff race has failed to faze the young Marlins (89-70). They’ve won four games in a row to climb a season-high 19 above .500.
“It’s no time to get scared,” said Juan Pierre, who went 2-for-2 to reach 200 hits. “I think our team is nervous but not scared. That’s why we’re playing as well as we are.”
“It’s not over yet,” Penny said. “Pretty close. As close as we can be.”
The Phillies led the wild-card standings Saturday but have lost five consecutive games since. They finished 6-13 against Florida this season and lost their final seven games in Miami.
“There are no excuses,” manager Larry Bowa said. “The Marlins beat us. They beat us all year, and that’s the difference between where we are and where they’re going.”
Jim Thome hit his NL-leading 45th home run, but Philadelphia did little else right. Randy Wolf (16-10) lasted just four innings, his second-shortest outing this season. Jose Mesa ignited a three-run sixth when the ball slipped from his hand on a throw to first and rolled into the outfield, missing his nearest teammate by 20 feet.
“We just didn’t play well. They played better,” Thome said. “We would score, and they would come back and score more.”
The first four innings were played in light rain after the start was delayed 18 minutes. But despite the weather, the game drew 31,935 fans, and they were loud.
Jeff Conine earned a standing ovation when he raced to the left-field wall to make a running catch and rob Jimmy Rollins of an extra-base hit. Pierre earned another standing ovation when he bunted for his 200th hit, becoming the first Florida player to reach the milestone.
McKeon flip-flopped Pierre and Luis Castillo at the top of the order against the left-handed Wolf, and the strategy paid off. Castillo reached base three times and Pierre four.
Penny threw 126 pitches and improved to 3-0 in three starts against the Phillies this season. He allowed seven hits and four runs and struck out Thome three times.
Encarnacion then hit his 19th homer—his second in as many nights, and his fifth extra-base hit in the series. He added an RBI infield single in the sixth.
Alex Gonzalez doubled home a run in the fifth after fouling off six consecutive two-strike pitches. Conine singled home two runs in the sixth to make it 8-2.
Wolf, who lost for the first time in his past five decisions, allowed seven hits and four runs. The Marlins are 27-11 against left-handed starters, best in the major leagues.
“There’s no finger-pointing at anybody,” Wolf said. “It goes through all25 guys. You’ve got to stay consistent. The Marlins did a good job of that.”
Phillies 3B David Bell, still bothered by a back injury that sidelined him for 2 1/2 months, left the game in the fifth inning. … Wolf fell to 2-9 against the Marlins with a 5.53 ERA. … McKeon was unhappy that umpire Joe West’s crew started the game in the rain. “We didn’t want to see anyone gethurt,” McKeon said. “There’s a lot of money tied up in these players.”