It took until late May for the Phillies to finally face off against their division rival, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are likely looking for revenge after the Phillies defeated them in the NLDS and were embarrassed in the series’ final two games.
Trouble began right away for Aaron Nola. Matt Olson pulled a single right after getting Ronald Acuña Jr to ground out on the first pitch. Nola hung a cutter to Austin Riley, who took it to left field to make it 2-0.
The Phillies didn’t take long to answer back in the second. With one out, JT Realmuto roped a single to left, setting up Alec Bohm to take a fastball dead center to tie the game.
The damage didn’t stop there, it was the young lefties’ turn to pounce. Brandon Marsh ripped a single to left and Bryson Stott took a 3-1 fastball to right center, 3-2 Phillies.
Marcell Ozuna, who hasn’t hit in nearly three years, tied the game with a homer.
The Phillies created a golden opportunity in the third, with one out, Nick Castellanos smoked an infield single after Riley couldn’t handle a terrific diving attempt. Kyle Schwarber drew a seven-pitch walk and JT Realmuto was hit on number eight. Alec Bohm got over the top of a fastball and chopped it to third for Riley to step on the back and throw home.
The Braves failed to capitalize on their own chance in the third, Acuña got jammed on an inside fastball but it dropped just in front of Marsh, who was likely shaded towards left center. After a bobble, Acuña was able to advance to second. After a four-pitch walk from Olson, Acuña got a great jump on Nola and the Braves took second and third with ease.
Nola used his curveball to strike out Riley, Sean Murphy, and Eddie Rosario swinging to end the inning.
Nola just couldn’t settle into this game. After a six-pitch walk to Ozuna, Orlando Arcia poked a single to right and Ozuna advanced to third. Michael Harris hit a sacrifice fly to give the Braves a 4-3 lead.
The Phillies have done a good job at least making attempts to fight back. Obviously, we remember the 5-0 comeback yesterday but they put themselves in a great position to win the other two games in that series. Bryce Harper tied the game with a 445-foot bomb.
In the fifth, Riley pounced on a hanging breaking ball for his second home run of the night. His home runs tonight combined for 917 feet.
Aaron Nola didn’t have his best stuff against a loaded Braves lineup. He went six innings and struck out seven but allowed five earned runs including three homers.
The Phillies worked a little two-out rally in the seventh. Harper saw Riley playing off the bag at third and dropped down a perfect bunt for a single. Castellanos drove a seeing-eye single up the middle that sent Harper to third. Kyle Schwarber roped a double to right field that scored Harper and Castellanos came home after Acuña threw into second. It did not work as Castellanos was tagged out at home.
There just wasn’t enough in the tank for the Phillies. Gregory Soto came into the eighth inning and after a Kevin Pillar strikeout, he just couldn’t find himself. Ozzie Albies hit a single to right followed by an Ozuna ground-rule double. With two on and one out, Arcia drew a four-pitch walk.
Travis d’Arnaud hit for Harris and ripped a 2-0 fastball to left to make it 7-5. Acuña jammed a single to right that loaded the bases once again. Olson took a full-count fastball to right for a sacrifice fly, 8-5. Jeff Hoffman came in to finish the inning but the damage was done.
Raisel Iglesias came in for a routine save, getting Kody Clemens to strikeout on three pitches, Stott to lineout to left, and Trea Turner to hit a popup to second.
The Phillies were close but just not close enough. Nola had one of his blowup outings that make you ask bigger-picture questions about his Phillies’ future. Soto is a similar case of someone who is typically very good but the bad outings stick out like a sore thumb.
Now at 23-27 with a golden opportunity to set the tone against a division rival, the Phillies will send out Taijuan Walker tomorrow night, who has been as inconsistent as the team itself.