Young Marlins flop against Phillies in NL Wild Card Series sweep

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Josh Bell warned his young Miami Marlins teammates of the dangers that lurked in Philadelphia.

Yes, the Phillies' big bats of Bryce Harper and Bryson Stott and aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola certainly played a factor in why the Marlins should have been wary.

And they all did.

But it was the noise that Bell feared might rattle the Marlins.

That Red October cacophony of rapturous cheering, constant clapping, ear-pounding roars that have turned Citizens Bank Park into one of the biggest menaces for visiting teams in all of sports.

“I was trying to prepare the guys for it just on the flight over,” Bell said before a 7-1 loss Wednesday night completed Philadelphia's two-game Wild Card Series sweep.

Bell was in the lineup a year ago for San Diego when Harper hit a decisive two-run homer that ushered the Phillies into the World Series. About a year later, Bell was back in the postseason, this time a helpless bystander at first base for the Marlins as Stott hit a grand slam that turned the ballpark into a madhouse.

At that point, there was little the Marlins could do, and their first postseason appearance since 2003 in a non-pandemic year was doomed.

“We lost to a really good team, and I don’t think there’s much to hang your head about,” rookie manager Skip Schumaker said.

Marlins shortstop Jon Berti ran them out of a rally against Nola in the third. Braxton Garrett could only muster three innings in a start that could have saved the season.

Yes, two games is a small sample size, but with a playoff series at stake, the bats fizzled.

Big league batting champion Luis Arraez, playing on a sprained left ankle, was 1 for 8 with no RBIs, as was Jorge Soler. Jazz Chisholm Jr. went 0 for 8 with four strikeouts. The Marlins hit .194 and scored just two runs.

It's easy for a lineup to slump in a hurry when it faces aces such as Wheeler and Nola on consecutive nights. Schumaker — who played for World Series-winning clubs in St. Louis in 2006 and 2011 — came to Miami from the Cardinals, with whom he spent last season as the bench coach.

He got a close-up look at Nola and Wheeler last October when the Phillies swept the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series. Wheeler took a no-decision in Game 1 and Nola won the Game 2 clincher.

“Wheeler and Nola. Those guys are going to haunt my dreams,” Schumaker said. “Last year, they kicked us out in St. Louis, and this year they kicked us out here in Miami.”

Still, getting swept shouldn’t be viewed as a total downer in Miami. The surprising Marlins earned only the fourth playoff berth in the history of a franchise that started play in 1993, albeit one with a pair of World Series titles.

Heartened by Schumaker’s relentless optimism and shrewd moves by general manager Kim Ng, the largely anonymous Marlins — who finished with 93 or more losses in each of the previous four non-pandemic-shortened seasons — went 84-78. And they did it on the cheap.

Miami’s payroll at the end of the season was just $104 million, less than half of the $241 million spent by the Phillies.

The Marlins earned the NL's second wild card despite a minus-57 run difference, the worst of any postseason team in major league history.

Yet, behind Arraez's .354 batting average and Soler’s 36 homers, the Marlins finished a remarkable 33-14 in one-run games.

Now they’re headed home, leaving the Philly frenzy behind them.

“As a manager, I was sitting back and kind of observing it a little bit more, and it was loud,” Schumaker said. “You could see the towels. I think you saw some of our players kind of look around like, OK, this is what the postseason is all about. If you haven’t been there before, you don’t know. Talking with some of our younger guys that haven’t been there, talking with them this morning, they’re like, OK, I get it.”

The Marlins couldn’t solve Wheeler or Nola. Their pitching couldn’t shut down Philly’s big boppers. And the Marlins sure couldn’t quiet a Phillies crowd that came primed for another postseason party.

But perhaps Philadelphia also showed the Marlins what it takes to win a postseason series.

“I think those guys are now understanding what winning looks like and should look like,” Schumaker said. “It was a really fun year.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB