ATLANTA — And so the collapse is complete.
The Phillies, looking lifeless for the first seven innings, officially bowed out of the National League East race Saturday afternoon in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves locked up their first division title since 2013. They have beaten the Phillies three straight days in a four-game series that concludes Sunday.
The Phillies led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 at that point. Since then, they are 15-28. The Braves are 27-20 since then.
Still a postseason chance?
Not really. The loss reduced the Phillies’ tragic number for elimination from the wild-card race to two and it could be one by the end of the day. Winning the division had long been this team’s best route to the postseason and that shipped has sailed.
The Phillies’ postseason drought will rise to seven years.
A fitting demise
Saturday’s elimination loss to Atlanta was befitting of the way the Phillies have played in recent weeks. They did not have a hit against Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz until Odubel Herrera’s leadoff single in the seventh. Phillies starter Jake Arrieta was torched for four hits and four runs in two innings — the shortest start of his career.
Too little, too late
Down 4-0, the Phillies rallied for three runs in the eighth. Cesar Hernandez had a two-run single and Rhys Hoskins snapped a 0-for-12 skid with an RBI single. Jonny Venters retired Aaron Altherr on a liner to left and Carlos Santana on a ground ball to short to strand two runners and preserve the Braves’ lead.
The Braves, aided by the Phillies’ 115th error of the season (second-most in the majors), got a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Big money, little return
Back in March, the Phillies signed Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract — his $30 million salary this season is the largest ever for a Philadelphia athlete — because they believed his talent and veteran experience would be valuable in snapping a long postseason drought.
Arrieta has come up small down the stretch. He has a 6.64 ERA over his last eight starts. In 12 starts after the All-Star break, his ERA is 5.09.
The right-hander came out of the chute Saturday with a pair of four-pitch walks. In fact, he issued four-pitch walks to three of the Braves’ first four hitters. He gave up a pair of two-run singles in the first two innings — one might have been shift-aided — and was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Carson Wentz makes his season debut Sunday.
Aaron Nola will also be in action for his 32nd start of the season. Nola is 16-5 with a 2.44 ERA. He is two-thirds of an inning shy of 200 for the season and has 210 strikeouts. Nola is scheduled to have one more start after Sunday, but it’s conceivable that the Phils will hold him out of that one and save some bullets for the next season.