ATLANTA — The Phillies held down the Atlanta Braves' powerful offense for one night.
But for two?
The Braves unleashed some serious thunder and hammered the Phillies, 9-2, Wednesday night at SunTrust Park.
The Phils won the series opener Tuesday night behind Aaron Nola's eight shutout innings. Nick Pivetta did not come close to duplicating that effort in the second game of the series. He was tagged for six runs — all on a pair of three-run homers — in 5⅔ innings. The Braves hit three homers in all.
Braves hitters had a .872 OPS, 64 doubles and 56 homers as the team posted a 20-8 record in June and turned a 3-game deficit into a 5½-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. The Braves' lead is back to 5½ games. The Phillies (45-41) will need to win Thursday night's series finale to avoid losing a game in the standings to the Braves. Oh, and the red-hot Washington Nationals are just a half-game behind the Phillies in third place.
Winning the series finale won't be easy as the Phils will face Mike Soroka, who is 9-1 with a 2.13 ERA and headed to next week's All-Star Game.
Not much offense
The Phillies scored just two runs — both came in one inning — in Tuesday night's win.
They scored just two runs in Wednesday night's game. Both came with two outs in the sixth inning on a solo homer by Bryce Harper and an RBI single by J.T. Realmuto, who was promptly thrown out (easily) trying to stretch the hit into a double.
The Phils have played 18 innings in Atlanta over two nights and scored runs in just two innings.
That's not enough.
Trouble with the rookie
Right-hander Bryse Wilson, a rookie making his fourth big-league start, attacked Phillies hitters with a good fastball and held them to two hits and no runs over the first five innings. At 21, Wilson is the youngest to start a game in the NL this season.
He was hurt by some bad defense, namely a throwing error by Rhys Hoskins that preceded a three-run homer by Josh Donaldson in the fourth inning. Hoskins' throw hit the runner going into second base and possibly prevented the Phils from turning a double play that would have mitigated the damage done by Donaldson.
After the Phils had cut the Braves' lead to a run with two runs in the sixth, Pivetta gave up a one-out hit to Freddie Freeman and a walk to Donaldson. That set up rookie Austin Riley's three-run homer with two outs. The home run chased Pivetta. Reliever Juan Nicasio then gave up four straight hits, including two doubles and a homer, as the Braves turned it into a rout. Nicasio has given up six runs in just two-thirds of an inning over his last two outings.
Pivetta gave up just four runs in his first three starts back from Triple A. He has been tagged for 20 in his last four starts. Teams had feasted on his fastball in his previous three starts. Donaldson and Riley both hit breaking balls for their three-run homers.
Harper's homer, his 16th of the season, was the 200th of his career. It was also his 1,000th career hit. Never has a player in major-league history reached a milestone hit and homer on the same hit.
Tough assignment for the Phillies on Thursday night. Soroka, a rookie right-hander, has won nine straight decisions.
Zach Eflin (7-7, 3.34) pitches for the Phillies.