After salvaging the last game in a losing series to the Miami Marlins, the Philadelphia Phillies (44-40, 2nd Place NL East) traveled a bit north to face the Atlanta Braves (50-35, 1st Place).
Despite winning the opener, when the air cleared after the fireworks during and after the finale, it was a 2-1 series loss and another game dropped behind the Braves, and also into third place by a half a game behind the surging Washington Nationals (45-41) for the first time this season.
Game 1: Pitcher’s duel won by Nola
Befitting the past records of the two starters in the first game, Aaron Nola (7-2, 3.89 ERA) and LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.08), this was a pitcher’s night in steamy Atlanta – 92′ 7 MPH breeze at the start at SunTrust Park.
Nola had been very good in his previous two starts since the 4.1 in 5 R disaster the last time in ATL on 6/15. He gave up 2R, 1 earned on a HR, 10Ks, in 8 innings on 6/21, and followed that up w/ a 7In, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 10K no decision on 6/27.
This game topped those two as he would eventually go 8In, 4H, 0R, 3BB, 8K, 117P – a career high – 73 for strikes, getting stronger as the night went on. The 7th and 8th were both easy 1-2-3 innings with his FB still topping out in the mid 90s.
Meanwhile it seemed that Keuchel had found something after his two starts since being traded to the Braves, 10.2 In, 16H, 9R – 8 earned – 5BB, 8K, 3HR, as he only gave up 2R in this contest.
Those two runs – the only ones of the game for either side – came in the 4th inning.
The inning started with a Jean Segura single, the second Phillies H of the game. Then just when it looked like that would be wasted, J.T. Realmuto worked a two out four pitch BB, and Jay Bruce followed with his 17th 2B of the season scoring them both.
This would tag a L on Keuchel after 7In, 5H, 2R, 2BB, 3K, 97P – 55 for strikes.
Hector Neris would come on and strike out the side – all swinging – for his 17th S, and cementing the W for Nola. Neris only threw 7 splitters in his 15P outing, as his FB was in the mid 90’s with good movement and the Atlanta batters could not catch up to it.
Game 2: Atlanta offense finally broke out
This foreshadowing tweet set us up for the frustrating middle game of the series
The Phillies beat RHP Bryse Wilson (1-0, 6.14) easily back on 3/30 at CBP, scoring 4R on 5H, in only 3.5 innings.
On this night it was a different story as through the first five innings, they only managed two singles and 2 BB.
On the other side Nick Pivetta (4-3, 5.84) trying to prove he belongs in the Phillies rotation looked good for the first three innings.
The second time around the order though the Braves tagged him for 3R on a single, and then a FC throwing E by Rhys Hoskins, trying to start a DP with the out at 2b. That set up a 3R HR by Braves 3B Josh Donalson (16).
The Phightin’s would finally dent the scoreboard in the 6th starting with this historic Double Milestone Moment for Bryce Harper
He is the first MLB player to reach two milestones in the same AB.
The Phillies would add another run in the inning on a Realmuto RBI single after a Hoskins 2B (17).
Unfortunately that would be all the runs the Phils would score and it all fell apart for Pivetta and reliever Juan Nicasio in the bottom of the inning on a 3R HR by rookie phenom LF Austin Riley (15), an RBI 2B by C Tyler Flowers (5), and a PH 2R HR by Matt Joyce (3). That would get the Braves to the eventual 9-2 winning tally. See more on Nicasio below.
This would be Wilson’s 1st MLB W: 6In 5H, 2R – both earned – 2BB, 5K, 1HR, 86P – 60 for strikes.
Game 3:Fireworks on and off the field
Despite taking a four run lead in the 1st inning with 4 singles off of Atlanta’s All Star rookie RHP Mike Soroka (9-1, 2.42), the Phillies starter Zach Eflin (7-8, 3.78) gave it all back in the bottom half and then more in this 12-6 loss.
Most of the damage was done via the long ball, as the Phils staff added to their league leading HR given up total, now standing at 150. Eflin would give up two in his 3 innings, 7H, 7R – 6 earned – 2BB, 3K, 74P – 48 hittable strikes, and the relievers three others. It would not be so terrible if they were all solo shots, but two in this game were three-baggers. More on dingers below.
About the only positive was that the offense scored six times including Sean Rodriguez second HR of the season, a solo shot in the 6th. Hoskins (18) would have an RBI 2B in the same inning getting them to within three runs.
That would be undone by a three run Braves 8th inning for the final 12-6 doubling up.
Soroka would only go three innings as the Phils made him throw a ton of pitches in that first inning, 9H, 4R – all earned – 2BB, 6K, 100P – 63 for strikes, so the W went to LHP A. J. Minter (3-4, 7.08) for one inning of shut out ball. FTR RHP Chad Sobotka earned his second H of the season.
In off the field news the Domestic Violence case against Odubel Herrera has been dropped by the courts, as his girlfriend declined to testify against him. The Judge did order Herrera to undergo 60 days of counseling. As of this posting he is still on Administrative Leave by MLB, and they should make a decision soon on if they plan any action against him based on their own investigation. This is all allowed based on the DV rules in the CBA between the owners and the MLBPA. The Phillies will withhold any of their own comments or actions until then.
Back on the field, after Wednesday night’s game Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler announced that Juan Nicasio has a groin injury. This lingering injury that apparently has been bothering him for a few days, but just revealed to the team, may be the reason behind his last two bad outings after a stellar June up until 6/29. His ERA ballooned from 3.74 to 5.24 in two outings of 3R apiece in in .2 combined innings. On Thursday he was placed on the IL and LHP Austin Davis was recalled.
The Phils are on pace to allow a franchise record 279 home runs (221 set in 2017) as well as the NL record of 258 owned by the 2016 Cincinnati Reds. Not that it will make phans feel much better HR’s are up all around the league, their total is second most in the Majors behind the Baltimore Orioles (168) and one ahead of the Seattle Mariners (149), and 14 of the 30 teams are also on pace to break their franchise records. By contrast the teams the Phils are competing with for the NL east are at 109 for the Braves and 101 for the Nationals.
Obviously somewhere along the line this has to change, as well as the Philles batters have to start picking it up on their own end to limit the damage of this. They are currently 11th (109) out of 15 NL teams in that area. Way behind what they should be with bashers like Harper, Hoskins, and Realmuto.
This Mets series right before the break will be a big test as even though the Phils are 7-3 against New York this season, the Mets have hit 123 HRs, 16 against the Phils.
The Phillies finish the NL East road trip with a weekend series against the New York Mets (39-48, 4th Place NL East). Then they head into a much needed MLB All Star Game Break where Realmuto, barring injuries or pull-out, is the lone Phillies representative.
Barring any breaking trade or other news Phillies Phriday Phill-Ins will return on 7/19.
Though I was born a few blocks from what was to be the NY Worlds Fair/Shea Stadium/Forrest Hills Complex, my parents saved me from being a NY fan by moving to Elkins Park in 1955, when I was 6 months old. I have been living and dying w/ Philly sports teams ever since. Now over 60 , I bring an older, but hopefully not stodgy, spin to this blog. By day I am a mild mannered controller/IT guy for a family business, but by night you will either find me @ CBP at least 17 games a season, and most other nights yelling at my tv as if they can hear me. Though I attend many other local sports, my main love has always been baseball, and my focus here is the Phillies, but I am also part of the team covering the Philadelphia Union.