I love pitching matchups like this. Tonight, the Phillies send Jake Arrieta to the mound, the $25 million man whose contract wouldn’t let them sign the Braves’ starter for the night, Cole Hamels. It’s a matchup of what you have versus what you could have had. Ask any random Phillies fan on the street who they’d rather have pitching for them, 9 times out of 10 you’ll get the same answer. Tonight didn’t let us down.
It started out as a pitching duel.
Both Arrieta and Hamels were cruising right along for the first four innings, not allowing much of anything outside of a bases loaded threat by the Phillies in the top of the second inning that they failed to capitalize on, but other than that - nothing.
The Braves struck first in the fifth when Addison Russell, beginning his trip back through the major leagues here in sim land, led off in the inning with a triple on the first pitch. Alex Jackson doubled him home with one out and it was 1-0. Atlanta got another in the sixth when Freddie Freeman singled, then surprised everyone in the stadium by attempting to steal. It must have caught J.T. Realmuto off guard the most, as he airmailed the ball into center, allowing Freeman to scamper to third. All of this was while Arrieta was battling Ronald Acuna, who when given a runner in scoring position against the Phillies usually delivers.
This time was no different.
An RBI single later and the score was 2-0.
In the seventh, the Phillies took their turn. With Hamels out of the game and A.J. Minter pitching, Andrew McCutchen led off with a double, followed by Rhys Hoskins drawing a walk. Neil Walker and Adam Haseley would go down in quick succession for two outs, but Roman Quinn’s infield single loaded the bases. Jean Segura, the NL’s batting leader, stepped up, laced a double into the gap that scored all three runners and put the Phillies ahead, 3-2.
The Braves aren’t a thorn in the side of the Phillies for nothing. With Robert Stock now in the game, the Braves got a leadoff walk from Russell, then with some successive groundouts, got him to third with two away. Atlanta sent Adam Duvall to the plate as a pinch hitter, who delivered in a big way, powering a fastball into the left field upper deck for a 4-3 lead. Things were looking up for Atlanta.
Until they weren’t.
The Phillies, in this sim land, have been quite good at coming back from deficits this year and tonight was no different. Hoskins drove in Realmuto with an RBI double in the eighth to tie the ballgame, then Bryce Harper got in on the action by knocking in Segura with the winning run in the top of the ninth. Hector the Protector locked down the ninth and the Phillies came out on top.
With the win, the Phillies pull ahead in the NL East, 1⁄2 game ahead of the Mets and 1 1⁄2 up on the Braves. It’s shaping up to be a tight finish this season.