Cesar Hernandez helps Phillies rebound against Braves

Scott Lauber, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

ATLANTA -- Here's the thing about blowing a five-run lead in the last three innings and getting walked off the field on a bloop single against your closer: It almost always gets better in the next game.

Somehow, it almost got worse for the Phillies.

It wasn't simply that they were trailing by one run in the ninth inning Saturday night against the division-leading Braves. Or that struggling ace Aaron Nola got knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up five runs, including two more home runs.

Surely that would've been bad enough, but the Phillies incurred two more injuries, too. Left fielder Jay Bruce departed after the fourth inning with left hamstring tightness, and catcher J.T. Realmuto -- the player that the Phillies can least afford to lose -- left in the sixth after getting hit squarely between the legs with a foul ball.

All together now: Oof.

But then Scott Kingery led off the ninth inning with a single, his third hit of the game. Sean Rodriguez reached on an error, and Cesar Hernandez punched a two-run single through the left side of the infield. Hector Neris recovered from Friday night's crusher, and the Phillies had a rousing 6-5 victory before a record crowd of 43,593 at SunTrust Park.

Hernandez, who homered earlier in the game, effectively dumped cold water on the Braves, snapping their eight-game winning streak.

The Phillies shaved Atlanta's lead to 1 1/2 games in the National League East and evened the three-game series with the rubber match slated for Sunday.


The comeback also took Nola off the hook. The Phillies even staked him to 3-1 and 4-2 leads early in the game, with Kingery delivering yet another big hit and Hernandez blasting a solo homer. If not for Kingery and Bruce getting thrown out at the plate in the second and third innings, respectively, the lead might've been even bigger.

But Nola hasn't been very ace-like this season. He has completed the seventh inning only once in 15 starts. He has allowed five or more earned runs four times. He has given up 13 home runs in 81 innings after allowing only eight through his first 176 innings last year.

It was more of the same against the Braves. He left a fastball over the plate that Austin Riley smashed for a home run to left field. It was Riley's 11th homer in his 29th major league game, a binge that resembles Rhys Hoskins' rookie heroics in 2017 (13 homers in 29 games).

Josh Donaldson KO'd Nola in the fifth inning with a three-run blast that gave the Braves a 5-4 lead that they held until the Phillies finally rallied against closer Luke Jackson for a victory that they desperately needed.

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