The first meeting between the Phillies and the Braves had a playoff atmosphere. Both teams were going with their best pitchers on the mound, so a duel was on tap. It wasn’t supposed to be a night filled with offensive fireworks, but the struggles of the Phillies was almost pitiful to watch.
It didn’t start too poorly!
Odubel Herrera and Jean Segura started the game off with back-to-back singles to get men on with no one out and the MVP frontrunner in Bryce Harper striding to the plate. Even against Morton, it felt like this was going to end in a bad way for Atlanta. Morton, though, wiggled out of the inning by getting Harper to ground into a forceout at second base, struck out J.T. Realmuto, then induced an inning ending groundball from Brad Miller to end the threat.
For the Phillies, it would represent the only threat of the evening. Morton would go on to have seven innings of what could only be described as dominant pitching.
It was a shame, too, since Zack Wheeler turned in a seven inning performance that rivals most of his starts this season. His only hiccup came in the third inning when he gave up a leadoff double to Travis d’Arnaud, followed by a single by Dansby Swanson that didn’t score d’Arnaud, but put runners on the corners. Morton sacrificed Swanson to second, bringing up Jorge Soler. Soler has been great since being acquired by Atlanta, so naturally he’d rip a single to left that would score both runners.
Wheeler would go on to throw four more innings of pretty dominant baseball himself, but thanks to the complete lack of anything from the offense, he would take the loss in the game.
The Phillies would make it interesting in the ninth though. Facing Will Smith, the Braves closer that has been up and down this year, Harper walked on a great at bat to start the inning, then went to third when Matt Vierling hit a frozen rope to leftfield that was dropped by Eddie Rosario. Andrew McCutchen was walked to load the bases for Didi Gregorius. Curiously, with Alec Bohm on the bench, Joe Girardi decided to let Gregorius face the lefty and was rewarded (somewhat) when he flew out to rightfield, getting an RBI and getting the tying run to third. That would bring Freddy Galvis up with two outs and Bohm still glued to the bench. Galvis would run the count to 3-2, but on a pitch right down the middle of the plate, he simply waved and made a left turn back to the dugout, giving Atlanta the victory.
There wasn’t much more that could be done, but it is odd that Girardi talked about how Bohm could be used off of the bench in a big situation, yet when that situation presented itself - twice - Girardi continued to use his veterans. Has Bohm earned the right to get the benefit of the doubt there? Of course not, but there are reasons managers always prefer the matchups regardless of who that batter might be.
Having lost the one game of the series where they might have been favored to win, the road to the division crown just got another roadblock. Now, the team has to run the table and hope the Braves drop a few games to even have a prayer. This was a game that they needed to win and they were quite simply inept. It’s unacceptable, yet hardly unsurprising.