Memorial Day barbecues would have to wait for the Phillies, as business called in the form of Sunday Night Baseball, a series finale against the Braves, and the first matchup between the Phillies and Spencer Strider since last season’s fondly remembered NLDS. Tonight’s game, it must be said, will not be remembered with quite as much warmth by the Phillies faithful.
Bryson Stott started off the proceedings by flying out to left after an almost-had-it bunt attempt that went foul, and Trea Turner joined him (though he sent his flyout to center). Bryce Harper flew out to left, and the Phillies’ first shot at cracking Strider ended quietly.
Dylan Covey, making his first appearance in Phillies’ red after a waiver claim (via the Dodgers) earlier this week, took to the mound. The debut began inauspiciously, with Ronald Acuña Jr. taking the first pitch he saw right up the middle for a single. A few pitches later, he went sprinting for second. He needn’t have bothered, as Matt Olson delivered a towering 464 foot shot to right. The next batter, Austin Riley couldn’t hit it quite as far, but he hit it far enough. His shot went to dead center. Marsh leapt and fell to the earth with an empty glove. Water splashed above him as the ball hit the fountain in the batter’s eye. 3-0, no outs. Sean Murphy slapped a fast grounder past a diving Turner for a single. Marcell Ozuna grounded to Turner as well, though with much less speed. Turner was able to put out the lead runner, but the attempt to turn two fell short despite a great recovery attempt by Stott.
Then, back to the mess: Eddie Rosario smacked a ball over Nick Castellanos’ head for a double. Ozzie Albies hit a single up the center to send both baserunners home and extend the lead to 5 runs after just 24 pitches had been thrown.
It got worse. An easy grounder from Orlando Arcia went through Turner’s legs. Schwarber misplayed it for two errors in as many seconds. Arcia took second, Albies took third. Fortunately, the fielding improved: Michael Harris II hit one to Stott, who threw it to J.T. Realmuto for a quick tag of the sliding Albies. Two outs. Covey was subsequently pulled and replaced with Jeff Hoffman.
Acuña returned for his second at-bat of the inning; Harris II broke for second on the first pitch, and said pitch was too high for Realmuto to attempt a throw. Acuña hit one to shallow center for a two-RBI single. The Braves thus had more than 3 times as many runs than the Phillies had outs.
Acuña then attempted to twist the knife he had just plunged into the Phillies’ collective back. He moved to steal second, but Realmuto, this time given a throw to work with, did what he did best. A nightmarish inning finally ended.
The Phillies, surely rattled, tried again to produce against Strider. Castellanos went down quickly via flyout. Schwarber, perhaps anticipating the coming of June, a month that saw him go on a near-preposterous tear last year, sent a shot to the center field wall. Harris II leapt into the air, thrust his glove over the wall and landed on both feet, ball firmly secured. It is not June quite yet. Realmuto went down on a strikeout, and there was no balm for the Phillies’ wounds.
The Braves got back to work quickly, with an Olson single up the middle. Riley popped out foul, and then a 5-4-3 double play ended an inning that was, mercifully, abridged in comparison to the first.
Kody Clemens walked to become the Phillies’ first baserunner of the game. Marsh, the next man up, did his best to change the narrative. Perhaps whatever dark forces were summoned to imbue the team from the Peach State with strength accidentally granted some of it to the bearded Georgia boy; he sent one over the left field fence. This one was, mercifully, hit hard enough that no play at the wall was attempted. Braves 7, Phillies 2. Following a strikeout of Gregory Soto, Stott hit a ground rule double, but neither Turner nor Harper could send him home.
In the bottom of the third, Eddie Rosario chopped one to Stott, who dove to knock the ball down with his glove, catching it with his bare hand and hurling it to first. But Clemens couldn’t pick up the throw, and the effort was for naught. Arcia singled to put two runners on and end Hoffman’s night. Yunior Marte was his replacement, and he induced a foul pop to end the inning.
Strider struck out the side in the top of the 4th, but the Phillies had significantly more trouble, loading the bases with a combination of hits and an error from Edmundo Sosa. Fortunately, for the reeling Phils, all three runners were stranded after a Rosario flyout.
Connor Brogdon took over in the bottom of the fifth, and got two outs before a Harris II single and an Acuña line drive to left misplayed by Schwarber resulted in the Braves 8th run. Matt Olson then delivered his second home run of the night to make the score 10-2.
After Strider quickly dispatched the Phillies in the top of the 6th, Matt Strahm took over. He allowed the first two batters to reach base, but escaped the inning otherwise without incident.
Collin McHugh took over for Strider in the top of the 7th, and the Phillies didn’t miss their chance to regain some momentum. Castellanos immediately doubled, and Schwarber took a breaking ball deep to center to reduce the Braves’ lead to 6. June isn’t so far away. Realmuto walked, but a double play and a Sosa groundout ended the inning.
Andrew Vasquez became the 6th Phillies pitcher of the night, allowing a run via hit by pitch, wild pitch, and finally a single to send Harris II home to make the score 11 to 4. The rest of the 7th and 8th went relatively quietly, marked only by the Braves getting their 20th hit of the game.
Down by 7, the Phillies made a last stand in the 9th. Castellanos flew out to right, but a Schwarber walk and a Realmuto double made some noise. Clemens struck out, and Marsh flew out to left to mercifully end an ugly night for the Phillies. It is to be hoped, dear Phillies faithful, that you were watching the Succession finale instead.
The Phillies split the series in Atlanta. Tomorrow night will find the Phillies in Queens, where they’ll have their first encounter with the Mets this season.