I’ll be honest, I was waiting for them to lose this game.
By the time Freddie Freeman came up with two outs in the ninth, facing the pitcher the Braves had walked off against the previous night, with only a one-run deficit to bash through, I could see it all happening too clearly. But Neris held strong with a rare 1-2-3 inning (and only seven pitches) and the Phillies won game two of their series in Atlanta, 6-5.
You could look at this and think, “Yeah, the team barely beat the Braves, Aaron Nola got dinked and dunked on, and the victory cost them two of their best hitters in Jay Bruce (tweaked hammy) and J.T. Realmuto (hit in dong with ball). And now today, they seem to be starting Cole Irvin against a powerful braves lineup with Andrew Knapp and Nick Williams playing prominent roles.”
You could also say, “The Phillies came back from the season’s worst loss and beat the Braves in a close game with a wobbly closer thanks to the continued offensive powers of Scott Kingery and a Cesar Hernandez home run.”
You would both be right.
It was an odd game at the start—horrifying when a Realmuto liner cauight the back of Atlanta starter Sean Newcomb’s head, who left the game under his own power, and questionable when Gabe Kapler used his challenge in the first inning to contest whether or not Bryce Harper had caught a ball he had pretty clearly not caught. It was at this point that I assumed this game would come down to a call that went in the Braves’ favor, but was clearly wrong, but the Phillies would not be able to challenge. I also felt at one point that a three-run Scott Kingery triple that, after a Braves challenge, became a two-run Scott Kingery double, the Phillies would probably lose by the run Bruce wasn’t able to score after an aggressive send at third base (I mentioned it last night, but doesn’t it feel like we’ve watched a lot of Phillies get thrown out at the plate this year?) I was in a real good place last night, clearly.
It does feel like every run the Phillies score against the Braves costs them all of their blood, sweat, and tears, while the Braves just sort of score because they feel like it—it’s what led to the eight-game winning streak that the Phillies ended last night. And today, if I’m being honest, doesn’t feel like the Phillies’ best chance to win a series. But they did win last night to remain 1.5 games back in the NL East, instead of buried deeper under Atlanta, and Bruce and Realmuto are both expected to miss only a game or two each—Realmuto was scheduled for an off day on Sunday anyhow.
Really, it was more of the same out there—Nola struggled, Kingery came through with runners on base, and Cesar pushed to come out of his current slump—with the chief difference being Neris’ quick, efficient bottom of the ninth. The way Harper caught the last out on Saturday night and applauded lightly against his glove as he jogged in from right field seemed to indicate the wave of relief that crashed over this team as it managed to hold together. You never know what’ll happen, and the Phillies have put themselves in a position to potentially take the series, which would be quite the turnaround for morale after game one’s epic loss.