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Déjà Vu: Braves 8, Phillies 0

Spencer Howard’s MLB debut didn’t go as hoped

MLB: Game Two-Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After losing the first half of the double header against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies officially brought up top pitching prospect Spencer Howard to start the second game. Lehigh Valley IronPigs pitcher JoJo Romero put it best:

Wearing number 48, the former second round draft pick was lucky enough to make his MLB debut in the most beautiful uniforms in professional baseball. Other notable Philadelphia sports icons to don the iconic number 48 include Dickie Noles, Danny Briere and Wes Hopkins. Morgan Frost is also currently wearing the number for the Flyers, who are the NHL’s number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the uniforms were just about the only positive things on the day.

After allowing the first two batters of his Major League career to reach base, Howard settled in and retired the next three batters in order, including recording his first career strikeout against Marcell Ozuna.

He also sat down all three batters he faced in the second and the first batter he faced in the third before running into some trouble. Freddie Freeman got the Braves on the board with a two-run homer to left field. Howard then gave up back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with two outs before getting Nick Markakis to fly out to end the inning.

Things were pretty smooth sailing on both sides from then on, until Acuña, Jr. added to Atlanta’s lead in the fifth inning with a solo home run. Howard’s day ended a few batters later. Despite the crooked line, it was a respectable first Major League start for the 24-year-old. Over 4.2 innings, he gave up four earned runs and struck out four. There were moments of brightness, like both of his strikeouts against Ozuna, and there were moments where he looked like a young rookie making his Major League debut.

The thing with Spencer Howard is that he’s going to struggle in his transition to this level. That’s completely normal for any young pitcher. But he needs support from the rest of his team if he’s going to succeed. It doesn’t matter if he gives up one run or a dozen if the offense doesn’t score anything and the bullpen bleeds more than a fresh wound. If Howard had only given up the two-run homer in the third, the Phillies still would have gotten shut out and he still would have gotten the loss. The six other runs are irrelevant at that point because the offense couldn’t get started.

Unfortunately, Acuña, Jr. wasn’t done once Howard’s day was over. He added a two-run homer in the sixth against Trevor Kelley, his second long-ball of the game and third of the double header. He came into the series with just one home run on the season and will now leave Philadelphia with four, unless he adds more in the series finale tomorrow.

The Braves continued to take advantage of a miserable Phillies bullpen and really blew the game open in the sixth, scoring four more runs off of Kelley and Austin Davis combined.

On the other side of the ball, Braves starter Max Fried held the Phillies offense to just four hits over five innings. He struck out six. The Braves bullpen shut the door, sitting down all eight of the Phillies’ final batters easily. Five of the Phillies’ nine players who recorded at bats in the game failed to reach base in any capacity.

The only good news for the offense was that Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery both snapped their extended hitless droughts. Hoskins reached base three times with a single, a double and a hit by pitch. Kingery, who singled in the fifth inning to snap a 0-for-11 streak, has struggled at the start of this season, especially since the week-long quarantine pause.

The Phillies will wrap this four-game homestand tomorrow with Aaron Nola on the mound. He will face Sean Newcomb, who is 2-1 in eleven career starts against the Phillies.