Will an inexcusable loss to Braves spark bullpen changes for Phillies?

The Phillies were ready for the series. They went into Atlanta and jumped to a 7-2 lead, as hitters chased Braves starter Max Fried in the 5th. They carried a 4 run lead into the 8th inning, and lost.

“A crushing loss, no way around it. We had a two-run lead in the ninth inning with our best reliever on the mound. Neris has been tremendous for us all year long.” Said Phillies Manager Gabe Kapler. “We felt really good in the dugout about it. It’s just a devastating loss. We’ll lick our wounds, come back tomorrow and be ready to fight again.”

Dominating the start of the Game:

The bats were popping as every position player, with the exception of Cesar Hernandez, got a hit. Hernandez was, however, productive in driving in the Phillies 8th run.

Scott Kingery once again was awesome. The potential all-star went 3-4 with a home run and two runs scored. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper each had two-run blasts. The bats were popping.

Nick Pivetta wasn’t his best, but he limited the damage. The Braves hit him for three home runs, however, the damage was limited as they were solo shots. He was also on the hook for the fourth run. In 6 and 2/3 innings, Pivetta let up 4 runs on 8 hits while striking out 6 and walking two. Where Pivetta failed was that he was unable to get the third out of the seventh inning.

The Demise

Enter the bullpen. Vince Velasquez enters the game for Pivetta in the seventh and gave up a hit to Freddy Freeman, who scored Ronald Acuna Jr, the last run charged to Pivetta. Velasquez then struck out Josh Donaldson.

The Phillies get one run back in the top of the eighth. The bottom of the eighth started poorly as Jose Alvarez walked Nick Markakis on four pitches. Alvarez then got the next two batters out. However, Markakis advanced to second on a ground out. A single and a triple later and the score is 8-6 going into the 9th.

Hector Neris enters the game. And for the 7th time, the leadoff hitter got on base. Neris settles in and got the next two hitters. Two outs! The Phillies have got this. No. A walk, double and single seals the fate. 9-8 Braves. Up until now, Neris has been a perfect 14-14 for save opportunities. Neris would even go on to say he thought he made good pitches.

“He got soft contact on a pitch I threw for a strike,” Neris said. “He got terrible contact on that single. I can’t control that.” This comment may be true, but when you just blow a 4 run lead over, maybe it’s time to show humility and give the Braves credit for their “weak hits” that won the game.

The Braves were also dialed in knowing that Neris was going to just throw the splitter. Austin Riley said he was waiting for Neris to leave a splitter up in the zone. Riley was swinging over the ball. Well, Neris did just that and with a 1-2 count, Riley hit a crucial RBI Double with two outs to put the Braves within two with two runners in scoring.

Time for Bullpen Changes

The weakness for the Phillies is definitely the pitching. It is inexcusable to lose a four-run lead in the eighth inning against any opponent, let alone the team you’re battling for first place. Kapler should be losing his mind in the clubhouse.

It’s time to make a change. If the Phillies decide to wait for injured players to return it may be too late. Klentak has to address the pitching soon. Klentak must send a message, whether it is a call-up or sending down a player. The message has to be sent that losing games late won’t be tolerated.

The Phillies now sit two and a half games back of the Braves. They need to win the next two to gain some momentum as they continue their stretch of games versus division opponents.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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