The Philadelphia Phillies (74-68, 3rd Place NL East, 2.0 WCB) began their next to last home-stand of the season against Division rivals Atlanta Braves (89-55, 1st Place).
A back and forth series ended in a split and both teams in the same positions in the standings.
Game 1: Slow Start Dooms Phillies
Pitching, or lack thereof, was the story of the opener, as Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.70 ERA) had a return of his First Inningitis that plagued him early in his career.
It started with a second pitch solo HR by Braves OF Ronald Acuna Jr. (38). Then a single, 2B, and a BB loaded the bases, still with nobody out.
It could have been a disaster, but Nola induced a DP, and then a K, only allowing one more run to score, but he had already tossed 25 pitches.
Nola was in trouble again in the 2nd. Even after a lead-off 2B followed by two quick outs, he then gave up a BB, and two RBI singles to make it 4-0 Braves.
Nola would settle down after that though, managing to gut out 6 innings, 6H, 4R – all earned – 4BB, 7K, 1HR, 99P -65 for strikes, in the loss. It would be the farthest any Phils starter would go this series.
Meanwhile Braves Starter RHP Mike Foltynewicz (6-5, 5.00), was dealing, going 1-2-3 through the first four innings.
A one out solo Rainbow to RCF in the 5th by the XBH Machine Corey Dickerson (10) ended the Perfect Game/ No Hitter/ SO with one blow.
That would be the only blemish against Foltynewicz, who would go 7In, 3H, 1R on the HR, 0BB, 7K, 101P- 72 for strikes in the win.
The Braves would score three times in the 7th on another tough inning for Nick Pivetta, and the Phils would get one more too little, too late run in the 9th on Cesar Hernandez‘ 10th dinger of the season, for the final score of 7-2.
Game 2: Fast Start Helps Phillies Edge Braves
A four run 1st inning, and two solo HR’s in later innings, the first just a bit more exciting than the second, gave the bullpen a chance to close this one out to even the series.
It was apparently hitting season as all those 1st inning runs came via the long-ball. This all coming off of Atlanta LHP Max Fried (16-5, 4.02). coming into the game on 7 innings of shut out ball against the Washington Nationals on 9/5.
That would not carry over.
With one out, J.T. Realmuto (24), and Bryce Harper (31) did this:
Rhys Hoskins followed with a 2B to CF that was close to being gone. That did not matter because one out later that Dickerson kid again went yard (11) for the four spot.
Phillies starter LHP Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) looked good for the first two innings, but the Braves tied the game in contrast, on the smallest of ball, 4 singles, 2BB, a FC error by Vargas, and a sac fly.
The Phightin’s though bounced right back on arguably the most exciting offensive play in baseball:
Acuna Jr. was trying to show he caught the ball, but it slips out of his glove before he can officially finish the catch, so Scott Kingery wound up with HR #19. Would not surprise anyone if he gets at least one more of these in his career.
The Phillies batter of the series so far, Dickerson, hits a boring old HR (12) to RF for the eventual game-winning run at 6-4.
That was because the Braves finally got into the HR parade as RF Johan Camargo (7) went deep, but that was all the scoring for the night.
The benefit of all this scoring was the One Man Hokey Pokey Dance, Blake Parker (3-2, 4.42), who went two innings, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 4K.
Holds were earned by LHP Ranger Suarez (5) and Jared Hughes (6), and Hector Neris, notched Save #26, in 1-2-3 fashion. Fried would get the L, giving up 4 HR, a career high.
Game 3: Pitcher’s Night
Despite what felt like “Hitting Weather” it was the pitchers for both sides that ruled the night, with all the scoring coming in the 4th inning of the 3-1 W for the Braves.
Both pitchers Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20), and LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.35) were in control thru 3, giving up just a combined 0H, and 4BB.
That all changed in the top of the 4th when Jean Segura committed a one out throwing E. It was his 18th of the season. tied for 3rd highest in MLB.
A single and an out later, on Eflin’s 88th P, Tyler Flowers (11) socked a 3R HR
A BB and a single later Eflin is pulled, 3.2, 3H, 3R – 0 earned – 3BB, 5K, 1HR, 95P – 61 for strikes. Edgar Garcia came on and got Acuna to fly out ending the threat.
The Phillies built a comeback on B2B singles, by Harper and Hoskins, but a Kingery FC to score Harper was all they would get out of it as Keuchel struck out Dickerson and Hernandez.
That would be all the scoring as both pens held the offense scoreless the rest of the way.
Kuechel would earn the W on 6In, 3H, 1R – earned – 3BB, 8K, 0HR, 97P – 55 for strikes. FTR RHP Chris Martin (17) and RHP Shane Greene (9) would each earn holds, and RHP Mark Melancon would get his 11th save.
Game 4: Misty Thriller Where Phillies Outslug the Braves
In a tense contest, fittingly enshrouded in a heavy mist that intermittently enveloped us 27,022 in attendance, the Phillies phinally let everyone relax with a three run 8th inning.
Like game one, the first inning did not start very well. This time it was Drew Smyly (4-6, 6.22) who was the victim of this hard hitting Braves offense.
Much like game three’s rally, this one started for the Braves on an error. This time it was a missed catch by Hoskins (9) to allow Acuna Jr. to reach base. Acuna would steal 2nd and 3rd, but it did not matter because Atlanta 2B Ozzie Albies brought him in on his 22nd HR of the season.
This time though the Phillies would make a bigger stand against the Braves starter RHP Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50).
It started with a single run on a lead-off HR by Hernandez (11) on the 5th pitch. It was Cesar’s 10th HR of his career in the opening spot.
Smyly would settle down with two easy SDIs while the offense would put up 2 spots in the 2nd and the 3rd innings. Each of those came on one out, 2R shots by Adam Haseley (5), and Segura (12) respectively. That would give them a 5-2 lead.
Smyly would not follow that last scoring with another shut-down inning, but instead returned the favor by giving up the 2R HR to LF Adam Duvall (7), to put the Phils back to just a tense one run lead. The Braves followed that up with a 2B, but this huge defensive play by Haseley preserved that one run lead.
Both starters would be PH for in their next AB’s so each would only go four innings.
The Phightin’s and Bravos would trade singletons in the 6th and 7th to keep the lead at one at 6-5.
As the mists rolled back in, the tension would mount in the top of the 8th with LHP Jose Alvarez giving up a single and a BB to start the inning. He would eventually get two outs, but the runners were now at 2nd and 3rd.
Manager Gabe Kapler, who did a good job mixing and matching his much maligned pen this series, went to Neris. He did get the final out on a hard line drive hit right at Sean Rodriguez, who was inserted into LF on a double switch. This would turn out to be another good move by Kapler in the bottom of the frame.
After the eventual man of the match Haseley worked a walk, off of the Braves 6th P of the night, RHP Anthony Swarzak, Phan “favorite” – yes there were some that would not let it go and were still booing him – laced a 2B to LF for one insurance run. Then with two outs, Realmuto made it just a bit easier for Neris.
Hector would once again go 1-2-3 with two Ks, to end this one almost anticlimactically at 9-5 for S #26.
Hughes (5-5, 4.33) would get the W for his 1.2 innings in relief of Smyly. There were three Hs earned by the Pen, Suarez (5), Parker (12) and Alvarez (13). Teheran got stuck with the L. More on the pen below.
How good was the pen this series? My latest favorite Phillies tweeter, who possibly may be even more of a Posidelphian than myself, and who certainly has more baseball knowledge than myself, TheGoodPhight‘s Alex Carr, summed it up nicely below.
That’s a 0.96 ERA. They have lowered their September ERA from 4.28 (14th in MLB) down to 3.24 (6th).
As consistently inconsistent as this team has been, there is one constant they have achieved that no other MLB team has, as Jack Fritz of 94WIP notes:
Phinally this stat is as much a sign of how much HR’s and scoring are up all around the league, but still an impressive feat with still five games to play:
In yet another big series against a good, if non contending team, the Phillies (76-70, 3rd Place, 2.5 WCB) host the Boston Red Sox (77-70, 3rd Place AL East, WCE 6.0)
Sat, Sep 14 • 7:05 PM EDT At Citizens Bank Park TV: NESN, NBCSP
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez 17-6, 3.73 ERA, 177 SO
Aaron Nola 12–5, 3.70 ERA, 207 SO
Sun, Sep 15 • 1:05 PM EDT TV: NESN, NBCSP
RHP Rick Porcello 12–12, 5.83 ERA, 123 SO
Vince Velasquez 6-7, 4.95 ERA, 113 SO