Phillies in danger of losing all of that positive momentum vs. Braves


The Phillies are in danger of losing all of that positive momentum over the Braves in just a week.

After taking all three games last weekend in South Philly, the Phils have dropped the first two games in Atlanta, losing 5-4 on Saturday night.

The Phillies’ bullpen took its first loss of 2021. Archie Bradley put runners on the corners in the seventh inning of a tie game and was replaced by Jose Alvarado, who was involved in a defensive gaffe with Didi Gregorius with one out. Freddie Freeman tapped a ball back to Alvarado, who initially turned to second to try to begin a 1-6-3 double play, but changed his mind when the bag was left unoccupied, spun around and fired home. He was too late to get Ehire Adrianza crossing the plate and no out was recorded. That was the Braves’ winning run.

The clear priority in that spot has to be cutting down the run at the plate and Alvarado would have had him at least in a rundown if his first reaction was to run at Adrianza or throw home.

"If you have a chance to turn a double play, I'm OK with you trying to turn a double play," manager Joe Girardi said after the loss. "But the thing is, Didi’s instincts took him to the ball and Alvarado didn’t know.

"I'm fine with either play. It was just a perfectly placed ball. It's frustrating."

The Phillies did not play well defensively. They are 5-3 heading into the series finale against the Braves Sunday. The teams meet again a month from now, with one series in May, June, July and late September.

The Phillies still have not hit. They scored eight runs Wednesday against the Mets but have averaged 3.3 runs in their other seven games.

Sloppy defense

The Alvarado play, which went down as a fielder's choice, was the Phillies' costliest defensive miscue but not their only. On that play, Gregorius went to field the ball rather than cover second base, which is why Alvarado changed his mind.

"My instinct was to come in just in case the ball was over his head," Gregorius said, "and we probably wouldn’t have turned two, so just go to the plate."

Gregorius bobbled a ball earlier in the game for his third error of the season.

And in that decisive seventh inning, the Phillies dodged a bullet because of poor baserunning by the Braves. Ozzie Albies lofted a ball into foul territory in medium-deep left field. Alec Bohm ran out to catch it and appeared to be called off by Andrew McCutchen but caught the ball anyway, their arms tangling up. Bohm's momentum was going away from home plate, making it a play McCutchen has to make. Bohm said, "my bad" afterward. It was inexcusable for the Braves not to tag up, but they didn't.

The Phillies haven't played well defensively to start this road trip. Bohm had two errors in the series opener, though Rhys Hoskins probably should've scooped one of them.

Eflin overcomes a shaky first

Zach Eflin had a rough first inning, allowing doubles to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Albies before Freeman’s two-run homer. He settled in from there and gave the Phillies the length they needed after four consecutive short starts.

In the Phillies’ last four games before Saturday, the bullpen pitched more innings (18) than the starters (17). 

It's nice that Brandon Kintzler and Connor Brogdon have been able to so effectively bridge the gap with these five-out appearances in the first week but you don't want to make that commonplace for two of your top five relievers. The Phillies needed at least six innings out of Eflin Saturday and that's what they got.

Through two starts, Eflin has a 3.46 ERA with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 13 innings.

He retired 16 of the final 19 hitters he faced.

McCutchen and Harper go deep

McCutchen launched his first home run of the year to tie the game in the fifth inning and Bryce Harper hit his first to put the Phillies ahead briefly in the sixth.

McCutchen's was a 444-foot blast to left field, his longest home run in five years and the fifth-longest of his career.

Harper, who leads the league with eight walks, went 2 for 4. He’s hitting .280/.471/.440 in the early going.

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