PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies suffered more than their share of struggles the first half of the season, so they have warmly welcomed the results from their first two games after the All-Star break.
They beat the Marlins on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, 3-1, to take the first two games of the three-game series. Chad Billingsley pitched five scoreless innings before leaving with elbow tightness, and the Phillies' bullpen held the lead, putting the Phils in position to sweep their first series since May 15-17 against Arizona.
"I think everybody felt better coming back [after the break]," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Starting fresh. We talked about it as a team -- starting fresh and choosing that path to win more games. It certainly helps that guys are playing hard."
Sloppy play hurt the Marlins, who had been solid defensively the first half of the season. It stood out in the second inning, when they committed two errors and allowed the Phillies' third run without the benefit of a hit.
"It's uncharacteristic of what we've done," Miami manager Dan Jennings said. "We've been a good defensive team. Early we were sloppy. It bit us. We're not that kind of ballclub. We're a better ballclub than that. I don't know if it's coming off the break and we haven't handled the ball with the four days off. Early in the game, sloppy. It definitely put us in a hole a little bit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Billingsley effective, leaves early: The Phillies have been desperate for quality starting pitching this season, and Billingsley provided them such an effort Saturday. He allowed four hits, one walk and struck out two in five scoreless innings, although the Phils pulled him after he complained about elbow stiffness throughout the start. Billingsley, who had right elbow surgeries the last two years, said he will know more about the severity of the issue after seeing the team doctor.
"Didn't want to push it too much more," Billingsley said. More >
Doubles but scoring troubles: Slapping out two-base hits wasn't an issue for the Marlins. Scoring runs was. Miami collected four doubles, one shy of its season high set on May 1 against the Phillies at Marlins Park. Martin Prado had two doubles, including one in the sixth that drove in the Marlins' lone run. But in the same inning, Prado was thrown out trying to advance to third on Christian Yelich's grounder, which was fielded in the hole by shortstop Freddy Galvis. If Prado doesn't take the risk, Yelich reaches on an infield single. Instead of two on and no outs, the inning fizzled quickly.
"He's certainly a better baserunner than that, and a smarter player," Jennings said. "From his angle, it probably looked like it was going through. The only play that they had was that play. The kid made a nice play. Got the ball off early and they got the out." More >
Flashing the leather: The Phillies kept the Marlins at bay with several solid defensive plays. Ryan Howard caught a line drive and doubled up J.T. Realmuto in the third. Ben Revere made a great catch at the wall in the fourth and Galvis threw out the lead runner at third in the sixth.
"Close games are more often lost than won, and it usually is due to mistakes by the opposition," Mackanin said. "And just like last night, we took advantage of their mistakes and we won that game. It's all about making the big play, getting big hits and making pitches when you have to."
Lineout double play: After falling behind by three runs in the second, the Marlins threatened in the third. Realmuto doubled to open the inning, and Cole Gillespie ripped a sinking liner that had a chance to get into right field, which likely would have driven in a run. But Howard was able to snare the hot shot for the out, and he doubled up Realmuto at second, keeping Miami scoreless.
"We ended up with 10 hits. Usually 10 is enough. I thought we took some at-bats early. It seemed like everything we hit hard was right at somebody. We couldn't get the hits, certainly with runners in scoring position, 1-for-9. A little frustrating with that." -- Jennings, on Miami's wasted opportunities
"Oh, [teammates] just told me. It was kind of like, 'Where were you in the beginning of the season?' and that kind of thing. They were joking around." -- Ken Giles, whose 100-mph fastball struck out Adeiny Hechavarria to end a threat in the eighth inning. It is believed to be the first time Giles officially hit 100 mph with a pitch this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Ichiro Suzuki singled, stole second and scored for Miami in the sixth inning. The hit was No. 2,893 for Ichiro, who is 107 shy of 3,000. The stolen base was his 495th as he closes in on 500.
DEFENSE COMES THROUGH
Prior to Saturday's game, the Phillies' 65 team errors were the second most in the National League. According to fangraphs.com's defensive standings, the Phillies have been the worst defensive team in the NL.
But Saturday, the Phillies turned that idea on its head. They capitalized on two Miami errors and a botched double-play opportunity to score three early runs, and held that lead on the back of outstanding defensive plays by Howard, Galvis and Revere.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: In Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET series finale, Dan Haren (7-5, 3.24 ERA) makes his 19th start of the season. The right-hander is 1-1 (3.00) in two starts against the Phillies this year.
Phillies: Could Sunday be Cole Hamels' final start in a Phillies uniform at Citizens Bank Park? It certainly is possible. Hamels is expected to be traded before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, with continued interest from the Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers and Rangers.