It’s still a thumbs up game as Phillies learn from last Miami loss

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

The Phillies lost their first game of the new season to the Miami Marlins on Thursday night. The final score for the ballpark built on the site of the former Orange Bowl was 4-3.

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

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

Two of the points in the fourth came after Jesus Sanchez hit a one-out triple to left center.

Phillies rookie center fielder Matt Vierling missed a power tap by one step.

“It was tight,” Vierling said after the game. “I feel like I took a step further there. I could have continued. I just have to keep working and learning the basic stages. But I feel like I would have could have reached this ball if I had continued. I probably would have crashed into the wall. I probably had one more step.

If Vierling had pulled off the take, it would have been a showpiece stage. It would also have been the second out of the inning. Gibson retired 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 South Chester County pride Joey Wendle came in and hit a two-run double left to give the Marlins a lead of 3-1.

Gibson got through the first three innings before suffering a tough fourth inning of 37 pitches. Garrett Cooper started with a one-out homer to tie the game at 1-1. Wendle capped off the rally with his two-out double.

Gibson blamed himself for the bad inning.

He said the home run throw to Cooper “was right in the middle.”

And on Sanchez’s triple:

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

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

“I’m not going to complain about the result of a pitch running through the middle,” he said. “I tried to get him in. If I get him in, it’s on his hands and a routine fly ball.”

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The thumbs were no longer on Gibson’s side in the fifth. He thought he had Cooper retired on a 2-2 pitch that would have ended the inning. Plate umpire Alan Porter called it a ball and Gibson ended up walking on Cooper to keep the inning alive for Sanchez, who this time delivered an RBI single to make it a 4-1 game.

Gibson initially reacted angrily on the mound when Porter failed to call out Cooper.

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

“I told Alan I was sorry for my reaction,” Gibson said. “He understood.”

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

Late in the set, the Marlins rallied for three runs against Gibson.

“The real difference was set four,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We were lucky to get a few more runs and we couldn’t cash in and they cashed in.”

The Phils have lost three straight 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 back Friday night as the Phils try to stop the early skid.