It's still a game of inches as Phillies learn in latest loss in Miami


MIAMI – As much as the game changes with the explosion of data, with defensive shifts, the designated hitter in both leagues, catchers on one knee, the launch and the ghost runner, baseball remains a game of inches.

The Phillies lost their first meeting of the new season to the Miami Marlins on Thursday night. Final score from the ballpark built on the site of the old Orange Bowl was 4-3.

It might have been a different outcome for the Phillies if it weren’t for a few inches here and there.

Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson gave up three runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth.

Two of the runs in the fourth came after Jesus Sanchez smacked a one-out triple to the gap in left-center.

Phillies rookie center fielder Matt Vierling missed making a running catch by a step.

“It was close,” Vierling said after the game. “I feel like I had one more step there. I could have kept going. I just have to keep working and learning the ballparks. But I feel like I could have gotten to that ball if I kept going. I probably would have crashed into the wall. I probably had one more step.”

If Vierling had made the catch, it would have been a highlight-reel special. It also would have been the second out of the inning. Gibson struck out the next batter, Jesus Aguilar. The right-hander was so close to being out of the inning. Instead, he walked the next batter, Avisail Garcia, with two outs and Joey Wendle, the pride of Southern Chester County, came up and stroked a two-run double to left to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead.

Gibson cruised through the first three innings before enduring a difficult, 37-pitch fourth inning. Garrett Cooper started it with a one-out homer to tie the game at 1-1. Wendle capped the rally with his two-out double.

Gibson blamed himself for the poor inning.

He said the home-run pitch to Cooper “was right down the middle.”

And on the triple by Sanchez:

“It really wasn’t a good pitch,” he said.

Gibson said he wasn’t sure how close Vierling came to catching it, but it didn’t matter.

“I’m not going to complain about the outcome of a pitch that runs down the middle,” he said. “I tried to get it in. If I get it in, it's on his hands and a routine fly ball.”

READ: Phillies add two relievers; Jean Segura out of lineup

The inches weren’t on Gibson’s side again in the fifth. He thought he had Cooper struck out on a 2-2 pitch that would have ended the inning. Home plate umpire Alan Porter called it a ball and Gibson ended up walking Cooper to keep the inning alive for Sanchez, who this time delivered a RBI single to make it a 4-1 game.

Gibson at first reacted angrily on the mound when Porter didn’t ring up Cooper.

Later, the Phillies pitcher looked at the replay. The pitch was just off the plate. After leaving the game, Gibson apologized to Porter from the top step of the dugout.

“I told Alan I was sorry for my reaction,” Gibson said. “He got it right.”

The Phillies came out of the gate with a quick run – Kyle Schwarber doubled, J.T. Realmuto singled and Bryce Harper smacked a sacrifice fly – against Sandy Alcantara in the first inning. The Phils did not score again until the seventh when Harper stroked a two-run double. Along the way, the Phils had a big miss. They had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth and got nothing. Vierling, 0 for 15 on the season, popped out to end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, the Marlins rallied for three runs against Gibson.

“The real difference was the fourth inning,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We had a chance to get a couple more runs and we weren't able to cash in and they cashed in.”

The Phils have lost three in a row to fall to 3-4. They are 6-12 in Miami since the start of 2020.

The Marlins are 2-4.

Zach Eflin gets the ball Friday night as the Phils try to stop the early skid.

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