The Phillies needed a win badly Monday night after dropping three of four games and they got it, jumping on rusty Braves starter Kyle Wright and hanging on late to win, 7-5.
Five of the first six Phillies reached base in the bottom of the first inning against Wright in his first start since May 3, and just when it looked like the Phils might be limited to two runs, Edmundo Sosa delivered a two-out, two-run double to double the lead.
You need every extra run you can muster against a lineup as formidable as the record-setting 2023 Braves and the importance of Sosa's double was demonstrated within two innings. Matt Olson hit a mammoth, three-run homer off the facing of the second deck in right field against Michael Lorenzen with two outs in the top of the third to draw the game closer. The lefty slugger added an opposite-field solo shot in the sixth. Olson has 50 home runs and 127 RBI on the season and has played in every single game since being acquired by the Braves prior to the 2021 season from Oakland for a package centered around Phillies reserve outfielder Cristian Pache.
“It was huge, especially losing that first one the way we did,” Thomson said of the win. “Coming out and scoring four in the first inning, that created a lot of energy.
“… Their guys don’t quit but our guys don’t quit either.”
Lorenzen lasted five innings but four relievers — Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm and Craig Kimbrel — preserved the lead. Strahm's appearance was particularly important because his 1-2-3 eighth inning allowed Kimbrel to face the bottom of the Braves' order in the ninth, ending the game with a harmless groundout from leadoff hitter and MVP front-runner Ronald Acuña Jr. representing the tying run.
“That was the best I’ve seen of Strahm in a while and Kimbrel, his stuff was electric, 97 (mph) with a hammer,” Thomson said. “… Maybe these guys are catching their breath now.”
The Phillies' offense had a productive day, scoring 15 runs. They came back from three multi-run deficits in Game 1 of Monday's doubleheader but lost, 10-8.
They scored four runs in the first inning of Game 2 and two more in the fourth when Sosa singled and scored on Jake Cave's triple before a Trea Turner double. Brandon Marsh hit a solo homer in the fifth. The 7-8-9 hitters had three of the Phils' four extra-base hits.
The split left the Phillies 79-65 with 18 games to play. They lead the Cubs by 1½ games for the top National League wild-card spot and own the head-to-head tiebreaker. That top wild-card spot comes with home-field advantage in all three games of the first-round Best-of-3 series.
The Cubs opened a three-gamer Monday night with a ninth-inning comeback win at Coors Field, where the Rockies have lost five of their last six series. The Braves have the best record in baseball and the Rockies have the worst record in the National League so this is a pivotal three-game stretch in the wild-card race for the Phillies and Cubs.
Lorenzen allowed four runs in five innings and has a 7.96 ERA in five starts since his no-hitter. The Phillies have their ace, Zack Wheeler, on the mound Tuesday in Game 3 of 4 against the Braves. Wheeler is the only starting pitcher the Phils can feel supremely confident about at the moment. Aaron Nola has a 5.86 ERA over his last eight starts, while Taijuan Walker and Lorenzen have allowed a combined 45 runs in their last 52 innings. It's not a great time to be searching for answers.
“If you take Olson out of the game…” Thomson joked. “He really likes hitting in this ballpark. I’d like to see a few more first-pitch strikes but (Lorenzen) pitched better than the line said.”
The Phillies are 3-5 against the Braves with two more games left this week and three next Monday through Wednesday. Those are their only remaining games against a team with a winning record.