Forget all those pictures of sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets and umbrellas in drinks; when the Phillies look at Miami they see barbed wire, trenches and mine fields.
The road to the playoffs goes straight through South Florida and the Phillies are hoping to emerge on the other side with at least one victory after getting the stuffing knocked out of them last night, 14-8. Coming into the game the Phils had won seven straight, but the Fish were riding an even better streak of eight wins in a row. Make that nine, a franchise record, after they pasted Brett Myers and four so-called relief pitchers.
Myers had been sensational going into this game but he looked more like the pitcher who was sent down to the minors in mid-summer than the co-ace of this staff. He had no zippidy do dah on his fast ball, relying instead on his curve. Neither helped. In the most telling moment of the game, Myers started the bottom of the fifth inning with a 6-5 lead thanks to Ryan Howard's two-run homer in the top of the frame. Myers got ahead of the Marlins' first batter, rookie Cameron Maybin, 0-2 who looked completely overmatched as commentator Gary Matthews pointed out thanks to a series of breaking balls. Then, inexplicably, Myers threw a fastball that Maybin laced into right field for a single. That opened the flood gates. Matthews (who has become a superb commentator) could not understand why Myers threw him a fastball but I knew right away. Intelligence has never been Myers' strong suit. (Matthews continued to wonder about that decision long after the game was spiralling out of reach.)
From that point on the Marlins took batting practice against Myers, Rudy Seanez and three other hapless hurlers. It's worth noting that Charlie Manuel made a number of questionable decisions last night. First, he should not be starting Chris Coste at catcher. Carlos Ruiz is his superior in every respect including hitting at this point. Coste is a mediocre receiver, does not call a good game, cannot throw and is spent as a hitter. Why Manuel decided to bring in a very rested but rusty Rudy Seanez is also hard to figure. All Seanez did was give up a three run homer to a guy who had two all season prior to last night, and it wasn't a cheap one either. Greg Dobbs had two hits in the game up to the sixth inning, but Manuel pinch-hit Mike Cervenak for him. The Phillies still had 12 outs left at that point and Dobbs hadn't made any of the prior 15!!
With the loss and the Mets' win the Phils dropped into second place by half a game. Milwaukee lost again last night so the Phils lead in the Wild Card is now two. Meanwhile, the Marlins remain very much in the hunt. and play the Phillies and Mets in five of their last eight games. This three-way race is far from concluded.