Not many baseball experts would have guessed that all the Phillies needed to do to break out of their slump was to face one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
Jumping on Jose Fernandez, last year's National League rookie of the year, for six runs, the Phillies snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
How dominant had the 21-year-old Fernandez been before this game? This snapped his streak of allowing two earned runs or fewer in 13 consecutive games.
Fernandez, whose fastball was in the high 90s, lasted just four-plus innings. Before that, he threw five or more innings in 20 consecutive starts.
The six earned runs were the most he has allowed in his brief major league career. He entered the game 2-0 on the season, with a 0.71 ERA.
"He is aggressive, and we try to be aggressive," said rightfielder Marlon Byrd, who knocked in the Phillies' first run with a double in the first inning. "He is tough [throwing] 98 [m.p.h.] with a breaking ball and [change-up at] 90, and we had to look up in the zone and hopefully get something over the plate."
No doubt, the crowd of 22,283, was surprised to see the Phillies (4-6) jump on Fernandez. Speaking of the crowd: on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the stadium's first major-league game, it was the smallest turnout since July 31, 2006, when 20,956 watched the Phillies lose to the Marlins, 15-2.
Domonic Brown singled in a second first-inning run on a 99 m.p.h. fastball, but the rally ended when rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton easily threw out Bryd at home.
Miami tied the score in the second inning when second baseman Derek Dietrich drilled a two-run homer to right off starter A.J. Burnett.
Ryan Howard gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead with a bases-loaded walk in the third. Fernandez then avoided further damage by striking out Byrd, Brown, and Carlos Ruiz. (For good measure, he struck out the side in the fourth inning.)
In three games against the Phillies last year, Fernandez walked four in 18 innings. This outing, he served four walks in the first three innings.
With one out and the bases loaded in the fifth and the score still 3-2, Burnett left the game, accompanied by trainer Scott Sheridan. The Phillies said the righthander had groin soreness and was taken out for precautionary measures.
"It came on early and went away, and I didn't think it was too serious," said Burnett, who threw 106 pitches and walked six. "Pretty much every pitch out of the stretch, more than out of a windup, and that last inning, I felt it a lot."
Burnett, who will be examined Saturday, was replaced by Jake Diekman, who threw Fernandez-like gas.
Diekman, appearing in his seventh game, got out of the inning by striking out Jarrod Saltalamaccchia and Dietrich.
"You feel more confident being put in that situation, and the key is to throw strikes," said Diekman, who threw strikes on seven of his nine pitches.
In the fifth, the Phillies scored three runs on RBI singles by Utley (hitting .469), and Byrd and a double-play grounder.
The Phillies received two scoreless innings from Mario Hollands. Antonio Bastardo gave up a run in the eighth, but Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save.