Discussion

Reeling in the Phillies

Updated: May 11, 2011, 11:17 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The Florida Marlins have a lot of talent, a rival evaluator mused on Tuesday afternoon, and the Braves have a lot of talent. The Phillies are banged up, competing without Chase Utley or Roy Oswalt or Brad Lidge or Jose Contreras.

"But remember," the evaluator said, "they [the Marlins and Braves] are young teams. They have to show they can take it away from the Phillies, and that's not easy."

The Phillies are the guys who wear the championship rings, who know what it takes to hold off other teams in September and get through every round in October. They know how to deal with late-season slumps and in-season injuries, and how to cope with the pressure of must-win games. They've been there. They've done that.

The Marlins and the Braves must learn how to do that, which is why Florida's victory on Tuesday was small within the realm of a 162-game season -- but still important.

Marlins starter Josh Johnson, who came into this season trying to find ways to get deeper into games and be more efficient, threw a ton of high-stress pitches in the second inning on Tuesday night; after three innings, he'd already racked up 60 pitches. But Johnson dug in after falling behind 1-0 and shut down the Phillies. On his 114th and final pitch, he pumped a 96 mph fastball past Ryan Howard, and you couldn't blame him for pumping his fists a little bit.

The score was 1-1 and Mike Dunn, who has quickly become one of baseball's best left-handed relievers, shut down the Phillies in the top of the eighth. After Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins made an error in the bottom of the eighth, Ozzie Martinez tried and failed twice to get down a bunt -- doing that against Roy Halladay is not an easy task -- in an effort to advance Omar Infante.

A wild pitch allowed Infante to reach second, however, and this changed Martinez's challenge; when he managed to push a ground ball to the right side, Infante moved to third base, and Martinez was greeted in the Florida dugout as if he had hit a three-run homer. For a young team trying to climb to where the Phillies are, it was an important baby step. Infante scored the tie-breaking run when Chris Coghlan dumped a single into short center field, and after Leo Nunez closed out the Phillies in the top of the ninth, there was a lot of excitement in the Marlins dugout, even for a game in May. They had beaten a great pitcher and a great and accomplished team.

But now the youngest Marlins and Braves will have to learn how to do what the Phillies have done over and over -- that is, to win over and over. Cliff Lee pitches against Ricky Nolasco this evening.

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For the Phillies, the tiniest mistake could alter everything, and that turned out to be an error by Rollins. When you face someone like Roy Halladay, says Coghlan, you have to scratch and claw for every run.

Johnson showed his dominance, writes Greg Cote.

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