<
>

Phils' 'embarrassing' drought continues

MIAMI (AP) -- When the door to the Philadelphia Phillies'
clubhouse finally opened 30 minutes after their latest loss, the
tables and chairs remained upright, the light fixtures still worked
and the water cooler appeared undamaged.

All in all, manager Larry Bowa and his team took their four-day
drubbing by the Florida Marlins surprisingly well.

Alex Gonzalez hit the first grand slam of his career, Dontrelle
Willis pitched seven innings and Florida won 10-1 Thursday to sweep
Philadelphia at home for the fourth time in a row.

It was the Phillies' 14th consecutive loss in Miami, and seventh
this year. Most of the games have been close, but this time seven
consecutive Marlins scored in the third inning against Paul Abbott
(1-5), capped by Gonzalez's 15th homer for an 8-0 lead.

The combustible Bowa held a meeting after the game, but
described the tone as "pretty low key."

"We talked about how we've got a long way to go," he said.

Sixty games remain, and fortunately for the Phillies, only seven
are against Florida. The teams are tied for second place in the NL
East, 3½ games behind Atlanta, but in the past two years the
rivalry has been no closer than Thursday's rout.

The Marlins are 11-1 against the Phillies this season and have
won 23 of the past 26 games dating to last year. The next meeting
is Sept. 21-23 in Miami.

"We're 0-for-Florida," Phillies reliever Roberto Hernandez
said. "We've got to come back again, and hopefully we can find the
right recipe to beat them next time."

The Marlins -- eight games below .500 against the rest of the
majors -- shake their heads in amazement at the way they've
dominated Philadelphia. And on a humid, 87-degree afternoon, the
Phillies' latest Miami meltdown was perhaps their worst yet.

Philadelphia's futility became comical at times. One Marlins
grounder was touched by two Phillies and still made its way to the
outfield for a single. Twice, a Philadelphia batter missed on a
swing that sent the bat sailing into the stands. And for the second
time in the series the Phillies let a routine fly drop for a
double, with shortstop Jimmy Rollins losing Hee Seop Choi's popup
in the sun.

By then the score was already 8-1.

The sweep intensified speculation about Bowa's job security in
his fourth season as manager, but he shrugged it off.

"It's been like that for three years," he said. "It doesn't
worry me. I do the best I can."

Bowa said he has no complaint about his team's effort. He and
several players talked during the meeting.

"There was dialogue on both sides," reliever Rheal Cormier
said. "We cleared the air, and we needed to do that. Now that it's
done, it's time to move on. There were some things that needed to
be addressed, and they were."

Against Florida, the problems were both hitting and pitching.

Willis (8-6) limited Philadelphia to five hits and one run while
enjoying plenty of run support. Jeff Conine put the Marlins ahead
with his eighth home run leading off the second inning, and in the
third came another Miami moment for the Phillies.

Juan Pierre singled, Luis Castillo singled and Mike Lowell
walked to load the bases. Miguel Cabrera doubled home two runs,
Conine hit an RBI single and Choi walked to reload the bases.

Gonzalez then pulled an 0-2 pitch over the scoreboard for his
15th home run. He added an RBI double in the fifth.

"When you beat a team like that and keep beating them, you feel
good," Gonzalez said.

By the time Mike Redmond's RBI single made it 10-1 in the fifth,
every Marlins starter had a hit.

"They've had the upper hand, no question about it," Bowa said.
"They play us like they are the world champions."

A sweep of the Phillies in the final week of the regular season
last year helped propel the Marlins toward the World Series title.
They hope they're making a move again.

"We're gaining some momentum," manager Jack McKeon said. "Now
we need the Braves to start losing some games."

Game notes
The Marlins optioned RHP Justin Wayne to Triple-A
Albuquerque. ... The Phils' Jason Michaels sent his bat flying into
the first row, then drew boos when he insisted a fan give it back.
Jeers turned to cheers when the fan was given the bat after
Michaels grounded out. ... Lowell improved his average against the
Phils this season to .426 (20-for-47) with five homers and 14 RBI.
... Abbott fell to 16-9 in day games. He's 27-27 at night. ...
Phillies RHP Vicente Padilla had his rehab start with Class-A
Clearwater rained out Thursday. He will now pitch Saturday night at
Tampa. Padilla (triceps) was 4-5 with a 4.07 ERA before going on
the disabled list.