Marlins 8, Phillies 5
That’s the farthest Howard hit a ball all night.
The slumping slugger went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, helping the Florida Marlins escape several jams in an 8-5 victory over the Phillies on Saturday.
Josh Willingham drove in four runs for Florida with his first homer, a triple and a double, then struck out in the seventh needing a single to hit for the cycle. Dontrelle Willis (2-0) pitched six innings and retired Howard three times.
Howard, who set a Phillies record with 58 home runs last year, stranded five runners as his average fell to .158 with no RBIs.
“That guy’s dangerous,” Willis said. “All he needs is that one, and here it comes. He’s a friend of mine, and I’m rooting for him, but not against us, because he’s a guy who can single-handedly carry a team into the postseason. I just pray he keeps struggling against us.”
The Phillies scored twice in the ninth off Jorge Julio and had a runner at third when Howard grounded out to end the game. That left him 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s just matter of him getting his timing,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s not hitting the ball like he is definitely capable of. We need him to do it.”
Howard, the NL Most Valuable Player in 2006, has three singles this season and no extra-base hits. He drove in 149 runs to lead the league last year.
“He’s probably pressing a little bit and feels he has to live up to something,” Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs said. “I hope he’s out of here before he starts turning it on.”
Nursing a 4-3 lead, Willis retired Chase Utley and Howard after giving up a one-out double and walk in the fifth.
“You have to thank your lucky stars with the type of damage they can do,” Willis said. He escaped again in the sixth, pitching around consecutive singles to start the inning.
Utley finally drove in his first run this season in the ninth with a double off Julio, who blew a save Wednesday in his lone previous appearance with the Marlins and had another shaky outing.
Willingham had hits in his first three at-bats. In the seventh he fouled off five two-strike pitches from Ryan Madson, then struck out swinging.
No player in the Marlins’ 15-year history has hit for the cycle.
“I did not know that,” Willingham said. “If I would have known that, I would have done it.”
Willis allowed three runs—all on Jimmy Rollins’ inside-the-park homer— and struck out nine. He improved to 11-1 in April with an ERA of 2.40.
Philadelphia’s Brett Myers (0-1) gave up eight hits—six for extra bases— and six runs in 4 1-3 innings. The Phillies, touted as NL East title contenders, fell to 1-4.
“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” Utley said. “Overall our starting pitchers have done a good job keeping us in the game, but we haven’t came up with the key hit with guys on base.”
The game drew 32,419 fans, many of them brandishing white Marlins flags distributed in a giveaway promotion.
The stands became a sea of waving flags with two out in the third. Cabrera doubled to score Willis, who had walked. Jacobs also doubled, and Willingham tripled to put Florida ahead 4-3.
Cabrera walked, Jacobs doubled and Willingham hit a two-run double to knock out Myers in the fifth.
Willis retired the first six batters before Aaron Rowand singled to start the third. Carlos Ruiz also singled, and following a forceout at third, Rollins hit a liner to center fielder Alejandro De Aza’s right.
The rookie made a diving attempt to cut the ball off, but it scooted under him to the wall, forcing left fielder Willingham to retrieve it near the 434-foot sign. Rollins kept running and slid home ahead of the relay throw for his third inside-the-park home run and his third homer this year.
Willingham homered leading off the second. De Aza, who has a hit in every game, went 2-for-4 and doubled in the eighth for his first career RBI. He scored on a double by pinch-hitter Jason Wood.
While much of the country is in the grips of a cold snap, the temperature at game time was 75 degrees. … Uggla went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .095 (2-for-21). … Myers has one victory in nine starts in Miami.