The Phillies came as close as you can get to a feel-good series-opening win over the Atlanta Braves. Sadly, they were neither playing horseshoes nor throwing hand grenades on Friday night. Instead the Braves won their eighth game in a row, while the Phillies were left reeling from a gut punch of a 9-8 loss.
The Phillies’ offense has received justified criticism for not hitting enough home runs, but that wasn’t a problem on Friday. They hit three homers, and much like they did in the opening series of the season, made life miserable for the Braves’ pitching staff. Scott Kingery was responsible for one of the long balls, and remained blazing hot with three hits total.
Nick Pivetta was making perhaps the biggest start of his career, and performed decently. He gave up three home runs, but all were solo shots, and his overall line looks worse due to Vince Velasquez being unable to strand an inherited runner in the seventh.
Even after that run scored, the Phillies still had a three-run lead with just six outs left to go. The Phillies’ offense even tried to make things easier for the bullpen when they scored a seemingly crucial insurance run in the eighth.
Sac fly for César!— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 15, 2019
8-4, us! pic.twitter.com/nOg7LenNtc
But four runs was not going to be enough. It seemed inevitable that the Phillies’ injury-ravaged bullpen was going to have a horrific night at some point, and against the Braves’ powerful lineup, that point finally came. Jose Alvarez and Edubray Ramos combined to give up two runs in the eighth, putting the Braves within two runs.
At least the Phillies had Hector Neris in the ninth, and he’s been as good as anyone in baseball lately. When he got Freddie Freeman to strike out, it felt like the Phillies were going to win. When Austin Riley doubled, and Jay Bruce fielded the ball with his bare hand to prevent the tying run from scoring, it looked like Neris would escape.
He did not escape. Instead, Brian McCann (of course) came through with a two-run single, the Braves got to celebrate their eighth game in a row.
The Phillies are left lamenting a lost opportunity to pull within a half game of the National League East lead. At least they won’t have long to lament, as they’ll be back at it on Saturday when Aaron Nola tries to put an end to the Braves’ winning streak that is proving to be frustratingly resilient.