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A failure in fundamentals: Braves 5, Phillies 4

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A suspect defense costs the team the game

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the season, the Phillies and their defense were discussed as a potential weak spot on a team that had playoff aspirations. Tonight, that fear of how much the defense could hurt them was manifested when a questionable decision in the eighth ended up being the decisive moment of the game.

Zach Eflin and Ian Anderson face off again only six days after they faced off in Philadelphia. Scheduling quirks meant they haven’t faced anyone but each other this year, so the teams should have been familiar with their repertoire. The Phillies began the night by demonstrating as such, loading the bases against Anderson in the first with one out thanks to a leadoff walk, then back to back one out singles from Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm. That brought Didi Gregorius up to the plate who put the Phillies on top early with a bloop single that plated both McCutchen and Harper.

Andrew Knapp almost plated two more, but his first pitch he cracked went foul by about a foot. That brought up the Braves and the red hot Ronald Acuna. Acuna made a certain Phillies pitcher quite unhappy last night with his staring at his missile shot of a home run, but he has been on fire for the Braves.

Acuna promptly led off with a spinning, end of the bat double, followed by double by Ozzie Albies that gave Atlanta their first run. Freddie Freeman followed a drilled a pitch from Eflin into the right field stands, giving Atlanta the lead at 3-2.

From there, both Anderson and Eflin really settled into a groove. For Anderson, at one point he retired 13 straight Phillies with relative ease, which kept his pitch count low enough for him to enter the sixth inning. Once there, he was tried to fool McCutchen with a curveball that Cutch wasn’t having any of.

Knotting the game at three, McCutchen’s home run felt especially big since Eflin had settled down quite a bit since that first inning. While he didn’t put the same kind of streak Anderson did, he was still quite effective in his own way.

In the sixth inning, with the game tied at three, Bryce Harper came up to another chorus of boos that have followed him with every at bat down there. Apparently they don’t like him there because he’s been really good against them. Sounds like jealousy to me. Harper responded by gently stroking a ball into the stands.

An absolute laser beam that is made all the more enjoyable by the gentleman in the background who let some pretty choice expletives fly forth. It put the Phillies in the lead and they were staring at more runs to put on the board when Jean Segura singled and Andrew Knapp walked with two outs. Girardi made the decision to pinch hit Roman Quinn for Adam Haseley, but Quinn took some tough pitches on the corner to strike out and end the threat.

For Eflin, he entered the sixth inning trying to get a shut down inning, but alas, the Braves had other ideas. Eflin started by striking out Freeman on a wicked two seamer, then allowed a single to the struggling Marcell Ozuna. He got a groundball that Segura made an outstanding play on to preserve a first and third situation and got a second out, but Dansby Swanson and his flowing hair doubled to tie the game up again at four.

The seventh inning turned out to be an adventure for the Phillies defense. Ehire Adrianza led off with a pinch hit double, then went to third on a single by Acuna (who else?). Archie Bradley, who started the inning, got a pop up to Bohm in short left field that, for some reason, Adrianza didn’t tag up on since Bohm almost crashed into McCutchen. The next batter was Freeman and well...it was something. Jose Alvarado, the new reliever, got him to ground back to the pitcher, but instead of looking the runner back to third, he turned to second....where no one was. However, Adrianza had gone on contact, so the slight delay of Alvarado whirling in circles cost the Phillies when Alvarado’s throw arrive late, allowing the Braves to take the lead. It was a lapse in defensive judgement that ultimately would cost the Phillies the game.

The Braves’ bullpen shut down the Phillies’ lineup over the eight and ninth inning, rendering them hitless and shutting the down on the game, preserving a 5-4 victory.

The debate becomes: should Alvarado have looked the runner back to third then thrown to first, or did he do the right thing and the blame falls on Segura/Gregorius for not covering second to get the double play? I’d have to lean more toward Alvarado needing to look the runner back, especially since that run is the lead run. Get the out at first and at least they would have two outs and Alvarado could trust his stuff to get the third out.

The two teams play again tomorrow on ESPN, so get ready for the cannon shot sounds.