By Joe Frisaro and Steve Wilaj
MLB.com |@JoeFrisaro |
MIAMI -- The Phillies picked an opportune time to belt their first back-to-back home runs this season. With one out in the ninth inning on Saturday, Aaron Altherr and Darin Ruf each connected off A.J. Ramos, lifting Philadelphia to a 4-2 victory over Miami at Marlins Park.
The Marlins held a two-run lead until two outs in the eighth inning, when the Phillies began to do their damage with solo shots. Darnell Sweeney homered off Justin Nicolino in the eighth for his first MLB hit. Philadelphia has won two of three in the four-game series, and is now one game behind Miami for last place in the National League East.
"It felt good to get that hit," Altherr said. "We made a good comeback there at the end and that's all we needed. We just needed a couple hits in a row and get some runs scored. I'm just glad I was able to be a part of that."
Nicolino, in his best big league start, held the Phillies scoreless on three hits through the first 7 2/3 innings. But with the rookie one out away from a clean eighth inning, Sweeney delivered a pinch-hit homer and Cesar Hernandez slapped a single to left. Nicolino was replaced after 101 pitches. Andres Blanco doubled to left on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Bryan Morris, pulling the Phillies even at 2.
"We wasted a good performance," Morris said. "[Nicolino] dominated for 7 1/2 innings. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to get one out. But sometimes it ends up being a crucial point in the game. I think if I do my job there, the game turns out different."
The Marlins managed two hits and two runs off Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang, and three hits overall in the game. One of them was Derek Dietrich's bases-loaded, two-run double in the third inning, which gave Miami a lead it held until Philadelphia responded twice in the eighth.
"It's bad spots. It's strictly about location," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said on the homers in the ninth. "You make mistakes, they're going to make you pay. Again, it's frustrating to see that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bour's walk, Dietrich's double: Over the past two weeks, the Marlins have seen an improvement in their situational hitting. It came into play in the third when Dietrich drove his two-run double off the wall in right-center with the bases full. The two-run double, which Statcast™ projected landed 398 feet from home plate, hit high off the wall. It nearly was a grand slam. But before Dietrich came up with his big hit, a key moment was Justin Bour working a two-out walk. It appeared Harang was pitching around Bour, who didn't chase. With the bases full, Harang had little margin for error, and Dietrich made him pay.
Phillies have Ramos' number: The Phils stayed hot against Ramos, launching two more home runs off the Marlins' closer to push the series total to three. While Altherr and Ruf each launched one in the ninth on Saturday, Cody Asche homered in the ninth off Ramos in Thursday's 9-7 loss. Additionally, Jeff Francoeur also hit a walk-off homer vs. Ramos on July 19 in Philadelphia.
"We got to their closer, who's been outstanding all year," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "You don't expect that, but the home runs are fun to see."
Nicolino's finest start: No Marlins pitcher has thrown a complete game this season, but Nicolino was flirting with the idea. The rookie allowed the two hits in the eighth, however, and his night was over at 101 pitches. In his fifth big league start, he enjoyed his finest and longest outing. Three times this season Marlins starters went as far as eight innings -- Jarred Cosart (April 27), Dan Haren (May 18) and David Phelps (June 11).
"We didn't use the changeup until the fourth inning," Nicolino said. "For me, being that's my pitch, that's good to see. Other than that, it was a good work day." More >
Sweeney breaks through: Sweeney -- pinch-hitting in the top of the eighth for the third at-bat of his career -- jumped on Nicolino's first-pitch 84-mph cutter and hit it beyond the left-center-field wall to cut the Phillies' deficit to 2-1. The homer, which marked Sweeney's first career hit, landed a projected 445 feet from home plate with a 105-mph exit speed, according to Statcast™.
"It was a good feeling," Sweeney said. "I put a good swing on a good ball and it carried out. That's all I was trying to do was be aggressive early in the count." More >
"That third inning, I was just missing some pitches and they were doing a good job of taking pitches and battling. They say walks end up killing you -- and they almost did -- but the guys saw I was battling and they were able to come up and get a couple big hits." -- Harang, who walked four in the first three innings
"I thought defensively, this was as good a ballgame as we've played. Ichiro [Suzuki] made the sliding grab on the line. Martin [Prado] played a tremendous game at third base. Just play after play out there." -- Jennings, on Miami's solid defense
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Phillies have beaten the Marlins five of six times since the All-Star break.
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: Rookie Aaron Nola (3-1, 4.41 ERA) closes out the four-game series at Marlins Park on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET, as he tries to bounce back from a wild outing his last time out. Against Toronto on Tuesday, Nola walked a career-high four batters in five innings while taking a no-decision.
Marlins: Wrapping up the four-game set for Sunday start will be left-hander Adam Conley (1-0, 5.82), who is looking to work deeper into games. In his first two big league starts, he lasted 4 2/3 innings and 3 2/3 innings.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. Steve Willaj is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.