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05/25/07 2:45 AM ET
Phillies drop fiery series finale
Benches clear before Philadelphia falls to Florida
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Just to ensure everything happened in a three-day span, the Phillies and Marlins added an 85-minute rain delay and a bench-clearing shoving match to complete a May series that packed plenty of emotion and testosterone. Florida took the rubber game of the series by a 5-4 margin and prevented Philadelphia from going above .500 for the first time this season, in its fourth attempt this week. The see-saw contest ended when Miguel Cabrera hit what the Philadelphia outfielders thought was a game-winning two-run homer, but ended up bouncing off the base of the center-field wall. It ended up being a small detail, since Hanley Ramirez, who started the 11th with a single off Francisco Rosario (0-3), easily scored on the play. The game leasted three hours and 53 minutes, featured a total of 30 runners left on base, including 17 by Philadelphia. The Phillies painfully will remember this game, during which they loaded the bases with one out and were unable to score. They'll also recall the eighth, when third-base coach Steve Smith sent Michael Bourn on a no-out double by Greg Dobbs. Bourn was cut down on a relay from Jeremy Hermida to Dan Uggla to Miguel Olivo. "Terrible," Smith said. "Bad play. It was a deep gap out there, and with [Bourn's] speed ... I feel bad for these guys. They played their butts off, and I made a decision like that." Smith's choice paled in comparison to the three-game set that had it all, and Thursday provided the capper, with much back story. Philadelphia tagged Dontrelle Willis early with two first-inning runs. Jimmy Rollins singled and scored on a double by Aaron Rowand, who then scored on a single by Wes Helms. Willis and Phillies starter Jon Lieber didn't figure in the decision, but they stoked what became a bench-clearing incident in the fourth inning, when both benches and bullpens cleared, followed by shoving and shouting, but no punches. Two batters after hitting Aaron Boone, Lieber threw his first pitch behind Willis, and Willis thought he was trying to hit him. That earned Lieber an angry stare. Two innings later, Willis retaliated, throwing behind Lieber, before eventually walking him. Willis' pitch prompted warnings from home-plate umpire Rick Reed, and jeers from the Phillies dugout, according to Willis. The verbal taunts continued during Jimmy Rollins' at-bat, which ended with a groundout to shortstop. After that inning-ending play, Lieber and Willis exchanged words. Marlins hitting coach Jim Presley restrained Willis while Lieber talked with Reed. He also exchanged angry words with Scott Olsen, Tuesday night's instigator. Phillies players Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, Rod Barajas and Rowand were especially animated during the melee, which lasted about five minutes. "Sometimes, emotions play such a big part of the game where you don't realize what you're doing," Barajas said. "It could be something that shouldn't be done and you can lose it for a second. It just wasn't right." Lieber, who hadn't hit a batter this season and is known for pinpoint control, said he was "all over the place." Willis had his doubts. "The guy ain't hit nobody all year," he said. "He hasn't hit anybody, but I didn't care to ask." A deeper look provides a possible smoking gun. Rowand's double likely jarred Willis' memory of April 28, when Rowand's first-inning double off him extended his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games. That followed a four-hit night on April 27, also against the Marlins. Since Rowand frequently gets hit by pitches, it didn't raise an eyebrow. This one, on Willis' first pitch of that April 28 third inning, did. "Hey, you get caught up in the game sometimes, and [Willis] probably got caught up," Victorino said. "I know Dontrelle is very emotional. That might have caught a lot of us off guard. Sometimes it happens." Scott Olsen's animosity toward the Phillies -- he's on record saying as much, because they beat the Marlins too many times in 2006 -- added to the tension. In the first game of this series, Olson was perturbed by Utley's requests for time in two separate at-bats. He threw over Utley's head once, and later angrily waved his glove at Utley after walking him. "That's what I didn't like," Victorino said. "To me, the word 'hate' is a big word." Jeremy Hermida's two-run double gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Philadelphia tied the game in top of the sixth, fell behind again by a run in the bottom of the sixth and tied it again in the eighth inning. Despite scoring threats by both teams, the score remained tied until the 11th. Add in Wednesday's wild ninth inning, when the Phillies coughed up a four-run lead and may have lost their closer for an extended period, and you have a perfect storm of baseball possibilities. "This is why you play the game, I guess," Victorino said. "Anything can happen."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.