Phils Lose To Marlins As Playoff Hopes Dim

Plan A was for the Phillies to go into Miami and sweep the Florida Marlins to put themselves two games ahead in the National League Wild Card race. Now, they're down to Plan B; Win two out of three in Miami to put themselves in a dead heat with the Marlins heading into the final weekend of play. Again, Jeff Conine was a Phillie Killer, slugging a three run homerun for Florida.

Once again, the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen came up small in a huge situation.

Jeff Conine belted a three-run homer to tie the game and Florida tagged Phillies relievers for two more runs as the Marlins rallied for five runs in the seventh inning and posted a 5-4 win over Philadelphia.

With the win, Florida extend its lead in the National League wild card chase to two games.

Staked to an early 3-0 lead, Philadelphia starter Kevin Millwood breezed through six innings, limiting the Marlins to just four hits. But the right-hander hit a wall in the seventh, walking the first two batters before recording an out.

Conine, who sparked Florida's victory over the Phillies on Wednesday with a home run, three RBI and two sparkling defensive plays, stepped in and took the first pitch for a ball. Millwood's next offering was deposited over the left field wall, knotting the game and forcing Larry Bowa to go to his weakening bullpen.

Mike Williams (1-7) came in and could not retire a batter, allowing a single by Alex Gonzalez and walking pinch-hitter Brian Banks. Dan Plesac was next to trot out from the bullpen and he walked Juan Pierre to load the bases before yielding Luis Castillo's RBI single, which gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead. In 26 appearances with the Phillies since being acquired on July 20, Williams is 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA.

Carlos Silva entered to face Ivan Rodriguez, who lifted a sacrifice fly to give Florida a two-run advantage. After Castillo stole second to put two runners in scoring position, Silva struck out Derrek Lee to avoid further damage.

Michael Tejera (3-3) got the win, retiring the only batter he faced in the top of the seventh.

Entering the game with a four-game losing streak at Pro Player Stadium, the Phillies jumped on Marlins rookie Dontrelle Willis for two runs in the second inning. Mike Lieberthal led off with a single and took second on a balk. After Jim Thome walked, Pat Burrell flied out, advancing the runners for Jimmy Rollins, who doubled to left to put Philadelphia ahead, 2-0.

In the third, Marlon Byrd opened with a base hit and Bobby Abreu stroked a one-out single. Willis struck out Lieberthal for the second out, but Thome singled to right to plate Byrd and give the Phillies a 3-0 cushion.

Florida threatened with two outs in the bottom of the inning, as Pierre legged out a bunt single, stole second and went to third on Lieberthal's throwing error. But Millwood induced a groundout by Castillo to keep the Marlins off the scoreboard.

Rick Helling got in a jam in the seventh, allowing two hits and a walk to load the bases with two outs, but Tejera needed just one pitch to get Thome to line out on a hard hit ball to Lee.

The Phillies drew within 5-4 in the eighth, when Braden Looper walked Burrell and Rollins before Tomas Perez advanced the runners with a sacrifice against Chad Fox. Pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee's RBI groundout plated pinch-runner Nick Punto, but Fox struck out Byrd to strand the tying run at third base.

The Phillies know their chances to appear in the postseason for the first time since 1993 are dwindling. They need to win the remaining two games of this series before returning home for a three-game set against Atlanta.

Ugueth Urbina came on to pitch the ninth and put the Phillies down in order for his fourth save of the season.


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