Phillies given a wake-up call in disappointing series against Braves

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Bryce harper phillies
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper reacts after hitting a two-run home run against Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Moore during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It’s not the best for Philadelphia Phillies fans to see their rival celebrate winning the division at Citizens Bank Park. It’s been a sluggish September for the Phils and eeking out one win in a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves only contributed to the streak. They’ve managed five wins in their past 13 games. In recent weeks, the Phillies have hit game-tying or go-ahead home runs in the eighth innings or later and have lost those games. 

Luckily, the series didn’t hurt their National League Wild Card chances. They still sit firmly with the first NL Wild Card spot. Philly has the lead over the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.

As they get a much-needed break on Thursday, the Phillies can go back and reassess what needs to change ahead of their upcoming series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Phillies Greg Soto
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Gregory Soto (30) works against the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, in Toronto. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press via AP)

Game 1 and 2: Braves win first 10-8, Phillies split with 7-5 win

The Phillies split the Monday doubleheader with the Braves, giving hope that this series was at least going to be competitive.

Philadelphia lost the first game, 10-8, and won the second game, 7-5. With the win in the second game, the Phillies were able to trim their magic number by one.

Yet it was the pitching from the Braves that tripped up the Phillies in the first game. Braves right-hander Charlie Morton threw almost 40% curveballs- putting the Phillies bats through their paces. He ended up finishing with four runs on six hits in six innings, walking four but striking out nine on 104 pitches. 

Bryce Harper, maybe sensing October is around the corner, hit a game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning of Monday’s doubleheader. Yet the Phillies allowed two runs in the 10th to lose the opening game of the four-game series.

The second game of the doubleheader saw much more optimism from the Phillies’ lineup. Brandon Marsh homered and Jake Cave added an RBI triple. The triple from Cave in the third made it 5-3 and spoiled right-hander Kyle Wright’s first start since May 3.

The only big highlight for Atlanta was Matt Olson’s homers number 49 and 50 in the second game.

It was also a good night for the Phillies bullpen. Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, and Craig Kimbrel all only allowed two hits and one run in four innings. It was a nice recovery for both Soto and Kimbrel who allowed a solo homer and single respectively earlier in the day. The Phillies split Day 1 with a 7-5 win.

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel, left, celebrates with catcher Garrett Stubbs after the final out in the team’s 5-4 win in a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Game 3: Phillies lose 7-6

Another day with the Braves, another 10-inning game.

Sadly, it was also another loss.

Atlanta’s Matt Olson made a meal of his at-bats in Philadelphia. He tied the Braves’ season home run record with 51 on the first pitch he saw from starter Zack Wheeler in the fourth inning, sending it into the left field seats. It makes it the 11th homers in 18 career games at Citizens Bank Park.

Wheeler got hammered by the Braves for three home runs in his 5.0 innings pitched. He had six runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and three walks. The Braves busted wide open in the fifth inning. Braves Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 37th dinger of the season for a 3-1 lead and Marcell Ozuna crushed his 34th for a 6-1 lead.

But the Phils weren’t down and out. Harper got his 17th homer of the season in the eighth and Bryson Stott hit a two-run shot in the inning to cut it to 6-5. Turner tied it at six with a leadoff homer —- his 11th in the last 13 games in the ninth inning to tie it at 6-6.

Braves snuck the win off Eddie Rosario’s RBI single from Craig Kimbrel to take the game 7-6.

Game 4: Phillies lose 4-1

It’s not a good day when your opponent not only wins but celebrates winning the division.

Austin Riley got things cooking for the Braves in the first and connected off Cristopher Sánchez for his 35th dinger. He was the main slugger for Atlanta on the evening.

The Braves had sealed the win before the fifth inning even started.

Riley also had a sacrifice fly in the third. Kevin Pillar added an RBI double in the fourth for a 4-1 lead. Stott plated the lone run off an RBI single in the first.

But it was easily the best outing for Sánchez, striking out 10 across 7.1 innings. Braves’ Spencer Strider won for the fifth time in six starts, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings. It made the 17th win for righty.

Atlanta clinched their 6th NL East title in 146 games, its second-quickest clinch in the divisional era.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum