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04/08/07 7:30 PM ET

Phillies can't rescue Segovia in debut

Three-run first, late threat not enough to catch up to Marlins

MIAMI -- If there has been a consistent cause of the Phillies' troubles in recent seasons, it has been that they build a lead early, only to watch the other club rally for victory. It happened repeatedly in the Phillies' season-opening series against the Braves and it happened twice in the Marlins series that concluded Sunday, including the series finale.

The Phillies scored three times in the first inning to give rookie right-hander Zack Segovia a nice cushion, but then lost the lead in the next inning and played catchup the rest of the way en route to a 6-4 loss before 16,308 at Dolphin Stadium.

It was their fifth loss in six games, as they headed to New York to open a three-game series against the Mets on Monday.

"I don't want to hear anything about pressing," slugger Ryan Howard said. "We've been there before. We've going to get through it."

The visitors produced a whopping 18 runners in the game, 11 via walks, and yet stranded 14. That left manager Charlie Manuel to deliver a familiar refrain afterward.

"We had a lot of guys on, but couldn't get a big hit," he said. After a pause, he added, "But it's just a matter of time before we get going."

General manager Pat Gillick added, "We're just not pushing [runners] across. But these guys are too good of hitters not to come [through]. Some of them might be trying too hard."

The frustration reached a crescendo in the ninth inning. After Howard opened with a line-drive single and Pat Burrell lined out to left on a 3-2 pitch, Wes Helms' double and Shane Victorino's walk put the Phillies in position for a rally.

That chased Marlins closer Jorge Julio, with the largely untested Lee Gardner coming in. But then Carlos Ruiz hit a first-pitch popup to the catcher and, with the Phillies having no viable pinch-hitting option left, little-used Michael Bourn struck out on three pitches to end the game.

Manuel said he had no problem with Ruiz's choice to swing on the first pitch in that situation.

"He's basically a fastball hitter, and it looked like he got a good fastball to hit," Manuel said.

Shortly after the game, the Phillies optioned Segovia and rookie reliever Joe Bisenius to Triple-A Ottawa, which opened roster spots for relievers Jon Lieber and Francisco Rosario.

Segovia gave the Phillies some hope for the future in his Major League debut. He gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings, but the result was not as bad as it may look. He had only one bad inning, when he gave up four runs in the second, and there he could have had better luck.

Right fielder Jayson Werth had a fly ball "kind of sail on me at the end" that went for a double and Werth later dove for a liner, turning a single into a run-producing double.

Manuel only said afterward of Werth's first chance, "It looked like he had a shot at it."

Additionally, one of the Marlins' hits in the inning was a softly hit popup that dropped in left field.

The last run off Segovia came in the fifth after he had retired the first two batters. Dan Uggla singled, and then Miguel Cabrera hit a hard grounder to Helms' right at third. The ball glanced off his glove and into the left-field corner for a run-producing double.

Segovia said the home run he gave up to Mike Jacobs in the second inning was a "pitch down the middle." But he felt good that every other hit mustered by the Marlins came on pitches that he located pretty much where he wanted.

"They hit a few balls hard, and some others just fell for them and not us," Segovia said. "It was a great experience. It's something to build on, and that's what I'm going to do."

Howard, who came in hitting .158, drove in his first runs of the season with a two-run double in the first inning. He acknowledged afterward that it was good to get his first RBIs behind him. "Feels pretty good," he said as he exited the clubhouse.

So now it's off to New York. Helms said of the 1-4 start, "We want to correct this quick, so we don't have to climb and climb. It's definitely a concern right now. We've got to be ready to play [Monday]."

Jimmy Rollins was asked if he expected to be booed especially hard in his first at-bat at Shea Stadium, because he had asserted in the offseason that the Phillies are the "team to beat" in the National League East over the Mets.

"I don't care," he said. "They boo me there all the time anyway. The way I look at it is, they boo you either because you're good or because you're playing against them."

Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.