Phillies blow 4-run lead in NLDS Game 2 loss: What went wrong?

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Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) works from the mound in the first inning of Game 2 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

What went wrong? What happened to the Game 1 Philadelphia Phillies?

They did initially show up that wasn’t too much of a concern yet there was a downfall. The first 15 innings of the NLDS couldn’t have gone much better for the Phillies. However, the sixth inning of tonight’s game was something else as they fell 5-4 to the Atlanta Braves.

So what happened? Let’s look at some key takeaways from what went right and what went wrong for the teams at Truist Park.

What happened to the Phillies?

Taking stock of what happened and on paper, nothing could’ve lined up better for Philadelphia.

Ace on the mound in Zack Wheeler? Check. Fully stocked and rested bullpen? Check. The lineup for driving in runs? Check.

In the sixth inning, it fell apart like a sad pancake.

First, the small bit of good. Philly had built a nice early lead from an Alec Bohm single that sent Trea Turner over home plate in the first inning as Max Fried struggled his entire outing.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto had a two-run homer to make it 3-0 in the third inning.

A Bryson Stott sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth allowed Nick Castellanos to make it 4-0 and it seemed that Philadelphia would be heading back to Citizens Bank Park needing just one more win.

That was not to be.

Wheeler looked unstoppable through the opening 5.2 innings of the game. He didn’t allow a ball out of the infield until the fifth. The sixth was the start of the slippery slope. Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies singled allowed Ronald Acuña Jr. to make it 4-1. Wheeler gave up a two-run homer to the final hitter he faced, Travis d’Arnaud.

Atlanta Braves’ Austin Riley (27) celebrates hitting a two run homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Reliever Jeff Hoffman came to the mound and he ended up being the thorn in the Phillies’ side. First, Hoffman hit Acuña Jr. with a pitch and worked ahead 1-2 on Austin Riley. All he had to do was to get out of the eighth inning and save the Phillies one-run lead.

It was not to be. Riley drove a 3-2 pitch right into the Phillies bullpen and the 376-foot homer made it a 5-4 Atlanta lead.

The collapse feels like 2011 NLDS Game 2 and the Phillies lost that series. Hoffman had half of his appearances during “dirty innings” with men on base. Time and again, he worked out of those jams. Tonight wasn’t the case.

Atlanta wanted revenge to be served hot

The Braves were shutout for the first time all season with the 3-0 loss in Game 1. That doesn’t sit well with a home team and in Game 2, Atlanta came out hungry for revenge.

Fortunately, their bats came alive in the final innings of the game, and the Revenge Rally saw them level the series as it heads back up north.

There was also a lineup change for Atlanta that might have made a difference. D’Arnaud started at catcher over slumping Sean Murphy. For manager, Brian Snitker, that might be the decision of the game

Granted, the first six innings were hitless for Atlanta and Fried struggled. But their bullpen more than made up for it.  Joe Jimenez, Pierce Johnson, AJ Minter, and Rasiel Iglesias held the Phillies scoreless from the 5th inning on. All good signs but the offense needed to start clicking too.

Acuña Jr. made it 4-1 and then D’Arnaud stepped up to the plate. He launched a dinger into the left field seats for a 2-run homer. The lead was now 4-3 and the Braves’ offense had woken up from its Waffle House-induced nap.

Just call him Austin ‘Revenge’ Riley as he sent home a 2-run shot to left, and the Braves had their first lead of the night.

The Braves finished the game with a 8-6-1 double play, as Harper got too far off first on the ball in the gap. It finished an incredible come-from-behind win on a night they desperately needed it.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson (28) reacts to getting the final out by forcing out Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper (3) on a fly ball in the ninth inning of Game 2 of a baseball NL Division Series, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 5-4. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Stunning the Phillies as you leave to go back to CBP was a smart move for Atlanta. Or a poor one.

Philadelphia does well at home, but the mood is notably different this morning than it otherwise would’ve been.

AP Photo/John Bazemore