Phillies fall to Braves in back-and-forth series opener
Published in Baseball
ATLANTA — Initially, it seemed like the Phillies would follow Wednesday’s walk-off win with another triumphant win on Thursday night. But instead, they fell to the Braves, 8-5, in demoralizing fashion.
Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning on Thursday night with only 21 bunt hits to his name. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Harper has titanic power, and showed it earlier in the game, when he launched a first-pitch home run 445 feet to right-center field. But there is a time and place for everything. And in this time, and in this place, the situation called for a bunt.
So, with two outs and no one on base, Harper stuck out his bat and angled it so A.J. Minter’s four-seam fastball would graze the grass inside the third-base line. He hustled to first base and clapped enthusiastically when he safely touched the bag. Castellanos was up next. And Harper knew, when he laid down that bunt instead of swinging for the fences, that this was a good matchup for his teammate.
Castellanos hit a single to center field to put runners on first and third for Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber took two pitches and launched a cutter to right field for an RBI double. Harper scored easily. Castellanos hustled around second and third as third-base coach Dusty Wathan waved him home.
He slid and at first was called safe. He pumped his fists. Harper, who was waiting for him, signaled to confirm the initial call. Schwarber gave his teammates a thumbs-up from second base. It was a cathartic moment — until it wasn’t. After review, the call was overturned. Braves catcher Sean Murphy had just tagged Castellanos’ knee before his lead leg touched the plate.
Instead of holding a one-run lead, the Phillies went into the bottom of the seventh tied, 5-5, and, for a moment, it seemed like they would capitalize on their momentum as Seranthony Domínguez gave his team a 1-2-3 inning.
But the Phillies were retried in order in the top of the eighth, and, in the bottom of the frame, Gregory Soto succumbed to a Braves team that can only be described as relentless.
After Kevin Pillar led off with a strikeout, the Braves recorded four hits, a walk, a sac fly, and three runs off of Soto. Jeff Hoffman induced a groundout for the third out.
The Phillies went down in order in the ninth. Like Wednesday, the team’s last chance came down to Trea Turner, but he was unable to deliver this time. Turner swung at the first pitch he saw, a fastball in the zone, and popped up to second base to end the game.
Aaron Nola gave the Phillies six innings, but they were rough innings. He allowed eight hits, five runs — all of them earned — and two walks with seven strikeouts with three home runs. Those three home runs were the most he has allowed in a game since July 18, 2019. Two of them came from Braves third baseman Austin Riley.
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