MIAMI — In danger of being shut out for the sixth time in 44 games this season — and for the fifth time in their last 15 — the Phillies offense finally ignored the snooze button, woke up and scored three times in the eighth inning of Thursday's matinee in Miami.
Marlon Byrd’s mammoth home run — it sailed over the 418-foot sign in dead center — was the finishing touch on a rally that erased a three-run deficit.
But when the Phillies took the field in the bottom of the eighth, Ryne Sandberg decided 91 pitches was enough for Cole Hamels and turned to his bullpen.
Mike Adams was up to the challenge, striking out Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee in a scoreless eighth. But Jake Diekman’s monthlong scoreless streak ended in the ninth, when the Marlins celebrated a walkoff win.
After fumbling a ground ball hit between the mound and third base, Diekman gave up a game-ending single to Christian Yelich with the bases loaded and two outs as the Marlins prevailed with a 4-3 win over the Phillies.
Diekman faced six batters in the ninth. Four reached base.
“A couple hits found holes, then the nubber and the sharp base hit,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It set up good [for them].”
“I didn’t execute well enough,” Diekman said. “I left a lot of balls over the plate, which you can’t do. Especially here, because if it finds the outfield, it’s huge.”
Diekman entered the day with eight straight scoreless appearances to begin the month of May. He had struck out 14 and walked four over 10-2/3 innings during that span.
After giving up a two-out single to Miami eight-hole hitter Jeff Mathis, Diekman appeared to be out of the inning when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson followed with a soft ground ball to the right of the mound. But Diekman was unable to make the play, as the ball flipped out of his glove and out of the reach of third baseman Cody Asche, too.
“I feel like I should have made it,” Diekman said when asked whether he could have let Asche field the ball in the first place. “I don’t know if I tried to rush it too much or not. But that [bleeping] sucks. It basically lost the game right there. Could have been the third out.”
The loss was the eighth of the season for the Phillies’ relief corps. The bullpen has a 4.85 ERA this season; only three teams in baseball have bullpens with a higher ERA, and in the National League, only Cincinnati has had a worse ’pen.
Hamels received a no-decision after allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked one.
After firing five shutout innings, matching zeros with Marlins righthander Henderson Alvarez, Hamels gave up three runs in the sixth and seventh. There were two pitches in those innings that Hamels might like to have back.
In the sixth, Hamels retired the first two batters when Ed Lucas reached with a double and Stanton followed with a single to score the game’s first run. Stanton’s run-scoring hit came on the first pitch of the at-bat.
It was worth wondering whether Hamels might pitch around or intentionally walk Stanton, who has more RBI than anyone in baseball.
“I didn’t think he would jump all over the first pitch,” Hamels said. “I tried to throw a sinker away, and it didn’t move. He’s been hitting fastballs pretty well, so I was hoping that maybe he’d mishit, but he squared it up pretty firm. I understand the situation, but I think McGehee is just as good.”
In the seventh, Hamels gave up a leadoff single to Jeff Baker followed by a two-run homer to Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna’s home run, his second in as many games, was hit on an 0-2 pitch.
“He just pulled his hands in quicker than I expected, just with the fastball I was throwing away with him,” Hamels said. “Just kind of thought I might be able to jam him and get a doubleplay. That might not have been the right type of thought process with him, because he’s not really a doubleplay type of guy.”
Sandberg said he opted for the bullpen over Hamels after Byrd and the Phillies rallied to tie the game because he wanted the righthanded Adams against the top of the Marlins lineup.
But whether Sandberg removed Hamels an inning too early was just one of many decisions to second-guess after a one-run defeat.
Maybe Diekman shouldn’t have tried to field the ball in the ninth, and let Asche take it. Maybe Hamels, after leading off the third inning with a single, shouldn’t have tried to go from first to third on Jimmy Rollins’ single, making the first out of the inning.
Maybe the Phillies could have scored at least one run in one of the first three innings, since they had two runners on and fewer that two outs twice during that span.
“In a one-run game,” Sandberg said, “you can look at some things.”
The Phillies are 20-24 on the season, one game worse than their respective records after the first 44 games of each of the last two seasons.
“I haven’t noticed a frustration,” Hamels said. “There has to be some urgency, because we’re supposed to win. We’re all veteran guys. This team is built to win now, not later. I don’t see the frustration yet ... We haven’t been able to come together at the right time. I know it’s close, and I don’t think you want to have a sense where guys are putting more pressure on themselves than they need to be. But I know it’s a matter of time before it will happen. I know personally it should happen soon.”
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21