The Phillies salvaged what had all the makings of a brutal weekend when they rode the long ball and the right arm of Aaron Nola to a 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Phils were hammered by a combined score of 24-9 and received just 7 2/3 innings from their starting pitchers in the first two games of the series.
Aaron Nola gave the Phils six strong innings before hitting turbulence in the seventh, and the offense produced four homers, including a grand slam by J.T. Realmuto, in Sunday’s finale.
The Phils (55-50) lost one game in the standings to Atlanta in the series. They trail the Braves by 6 ½ games in the NL East. The Phils entered the day one game back in the NL wild-card race.
The right-hander was brilliant for six innings. He came out firing 94 mph heat and bending a sharp breaking ball. He struck out five of the first nine batters he faced and threw just 33 pitches (26 strikes) through the first three innings.
Nola was tested in the fourth inning. He gave up a double and a walk with one out and had to face Atlanta’s No. 4 and 5 hitters, Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann, respectively. Nola struck them both out on breaking balls.
With his pitch count rising toward 100, Nola struggled in the seventh. He walked Donaldson and gave up a single to McCann before Ender Inciarte belted a three-run homer. Johan Camargo then hit the next pitch over the wall in right to make it a two-run game. Nola continued to scuffle in the inning before getting some help from Adam Morgan.
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The Phils scored all but one of their runs on homers.
Bryce Harper set an early tone with a solo homer in the bottom of the first inning. He hit a first-pitch fastball from Kevin Gausman. Harper’s 18th homer was his first since July 16 and just his third this month. Rookie Adam Haseley clubbed a solo homer in the third and Realmuto hit his grand slam with two outs in the fifth. Both Haseley and Realmuto hit full-count fastballs from Gausman. Realmuto picked up Harper and Hoskins. The Phillies had loaded the bases with no outs and Harper struck out and Hoskins popped up on a 3-0 pitch prior to Realmuto’s heroics.
Hoskins atoned in the seventh. He hit an important two-run homer to provide some cushion after the Braves’ rallied from six runs down to make it a two-run game.
The seventh inning was costly for the Phillies. Nola lost his shutout bid and the quality start when he allowed four runs on a pair of one-out homers, and shortstop Jean Segura suffered a shin contusion on a tag play as Ronald Acuna Jr. stole second base. Manager Gabe Kapler said catcher J.T. Realmuto’s throw hit Segura’s shin. He added that there was no long-term concern about Segura’s health.
Morgan got the biggest out of the game when he retired dangerous Freddie Freeman, the potential go-ahead run, on a fly ball to center to end the tense seventh inning and stop the Braves’ rally at four runs. The out preserved a 6-4 Phillies’ lead.
Nick Pivetta continued his recent strong bullpen work with two scoreless innings. He featured 97 mph heat and a sharp curveball. There might be something there.
The Phillies are off Monday. They host the surging San Francisco Giants for three games beginning Tuesday night. Drew Smyly will pitch Tuesday night for the Phillies. The club had not yet announced the rest of its rotation for the series.
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