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Phillies Flip Script with Late-Inning Rally to Edge Braves

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Before a record crowd at SunTrust Park (43,593), the Philadelphia Phillies (39-31) and closer Hector Neris successfully redeemed themselves in the second of a three-game set Saturday evening opposite the Atlanta Braves (41-30).

The Phillies flipped the script in the series opener, from them giving up a 8-6 lead in the ninth on Friday, to the Braves giving up a 5-4 lead in the ninth on Saturday.

Cesar Hernandez delivered with a two-RBI single past the diving Braves infield on the left-side, giving the Phillies the 6-5 advantage. Neris entered in the ninth and needed just seven pitches (five strikes) to redeem his heartbreaking blown save in the series opener on Friday, his 30th birthday. The right-hander is now 15-for-16 in save opportunities this season.

With the win, the Phillies snapped the Braves' eight-game winning streak, and shrunk their rival's lead in the National League East to 1 1/2 games. 

Three players exited the game with injuries: Braves starting pitcher Sean Newcomb, and the Phillies' Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto.

Phillies starter Aaron Nola worked out of trouble in the first on 18 total pitches. Two batters after shortstop Dansby Swanson walked, third baseman Josh Donaldson singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. Nola then managed to strike right fielder Nick Markakis out looking for the third and final out.

The Phillies did not wait long for their first baserunner to reach opposite Newcomb — right fielder Bryce Harper's five-pitch, one-out walk in the game's opening frame. The Phillies' first hit likewise came with one in the following frame — center fielder Scott Kingery's single to left. Third baseman Sean Rodriguez followed with a single to put runners on the corners with only out one, but the next at-bat resulted in second baseman Cesar Hernandez striking out swinging, and Kingery being caught stealing home. Nonetheless, the Phillies made the Braves starter work through the first two frames by tossing 43 total pitches.

The game's first run came on just the second pitch of the second inning, as rookie left fielder Austin Riley homered off the Phillies ace. The home run was Riley's 11th, coupled with his 31st RBI through only 29 career games.

The Phillies responded with three runs in the next half-inning. After Harper reached base for the second time (walk), catcher J.T. Realmuto hit a 102-miles per hour-line drive off the back of Newcomb's head, which then richocheted over the Phillies dugout and into the netting — a ground rule double.

"The look on Realmuto’s face, holding his hands to his face in horror as he ran to first base, said it all about how frightening that was," The Athletic's David O'Brien writes. "Touki in after Newcomb exits. Head wasn’t bleeding and he appeared to be OK, remarkably."

First baseman Rhys Hoskins was then hit by a pitch — the fourth time this season — to load the bases. Kingery came through by lining a ball to the right field corner. Two runners scored on his double; left fielder Jay Bruce also was initially ruled safe at home for a third run, but the ruling was overturned upon review.

The Phillies may have led 3-1 after batting in the third, but the Braves added one back the next half-inning with first baseman Freddie Freeman's RBI groundout. A Harper costly fielding error earlier in the inning facilitated the baserunner — center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. — to score.

Hernandez — entering his fourth-inning plate appearance with just five hits through 47 at-bats in the month of June — launched a one-out solo shot to give the Phillies a 4-2 advantage. Nick Williams replaced Bruce in left field to start the latter-half of the fourth. Manager Gabe Kapler pulled Bruce out of precaution due to left hamstring tightness. Bruce's injury likely occurred earlier in the game when the outfielder was called out at home plate.

Nola struggled in the fifth; he let two Braves batters reach before allowing a three-run home run to Donaldson, his 11th. The right-hander was pulled right after. Rookie J.D. Hammer was able to prevent further damage, resulting in Nola's line to finalize as the following: 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2 HR.

Earlier in the inning, Realmuto took a foul ball squarely between the legs. He managed to finish out the inning, but was replaced by Andrew Knapp in the sixth.

The game was 5-4 in favor of the Braves until the top of the ninth opposite Braves closer RHP Luke Jackson. Kingery began the frame with a single to left, his third hit in as many at-bats in the contest. Then, Rodriguez attempted a sacrifice, but successfully reached on a Jackson throwing error; both Kingery and Rodriguez advanced into scoring position, leading up Hernandez's game-winning single and Neris' save.

Game Notes:

  • Prior to his home run in the fourth, Hernandez had been the only Phillies position player without a home run in June, minimum 13 plate appearances. Hernandez now has seven home runs through 69 games this season; he hit 15 spanning 161 games in 2018.
  • The Phillies are now 35-7 when they score four or more runs this season.
  • Record, last 33 games: Braves 23-10, Phillies 18-15
  • Realmuto went 1-for-3, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Likewise, Acuna went 1-for-4, extending his hitting streak to seven games. Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, on the other hand, went 0-for-4, ending his streak at six games.
  • The Phillies bullpen combined to pitch 4 2/3 innings; they allowed just two hits, no runs, and one walk, while striking out five batters. Edubray Ramos earned the win, his first of the season and seventh of his four-year career.
  • Phillies batters went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position (Bruce 0-1, Hernandez 1-2, Williams 0-1, Kingery 1-1).

What's Next:

  • Sunday, June 16, 2019: at Atlanta Braves, 1:20 p.m.
    • SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Ga.
    • TBA vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 6.02 ERA)
    • TV: NBCSP; Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP


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