Circus act in fifth inning condemns Phillies to second straight loss to Braves


Circus act in fifth inning condemns Phillies to second straight loss to Braves

ATLANTA — For the second straight game, the Phillies played a sloppy defense and their bullpen was unable to hold back the Atlanta Braves offense.

“We gave it away,” said manager Joe Girardi after his team’s 4-8 defeat at the Braves’ home stadium on Wednesday night.

The Braves broke up a two-run 4-4 game late in the fifth. Helper Jose Alvarado threw a wild throw and gave up an inning homer, and midfielder Odubel Herrera made a costly mistake on a ball that eluded everyone but the peanut seller.

It was the Phillies’ seventh loss in their last 10 games and dropped them to four games under .500 at 20-24.

They haven’t played five games under .500 this season and the feeling in the clubhouse is down.

“The mood is obviously not good,” said catcher JT Realmuto. “We feel like we’re a much better team than the way we’re playing right now and it’s up to us to play better at this clubhouse.

“We have to get better in all aspects of the game. We don’t throw well enough. We’re not hitting well enough. We don’t play well enough in defense.

“It’s pretty grim in this clubhouse at the moment after that loss and that’s the way it should be. Because we expect to win. We just have to play better if we want to get where we want to go.”

The Phillies won the first game of the series on Monday night. Their back-to-back losses coincided with the top-ranked New York Mets, who lost back-to-back. The Phils missed an opportunity to gain ground in the NL East and remain eight games behind the Mets while the Braves are seven behind.

The Phillies play a three-game series against the Mets beginning Friday night in New York.

Things were going well for the Phillies on Wednesday night. They went 1-0 in the second inning on a solo homer by Herrera. The Braves came back quickly with four runs against Ranger Suarez in the bottom of the second inning and were never behind again.

William Contreras, who hit the game-winning walkoff Tuesday night, started the Braves’ second innings rally with a solo homer on a 2-0 pitch by Suarez.

Suarez has given up six homers in 43 2/3 innings this season. He only allowed four in 106 innings last season.

Herrera had another RBI hit in the fourth and Nick Castellanos and Jean Segura drove runs in the fifth to make it a 4-4 game.

The Braves came right back and took control of the game by the end of the fifth and rolled to victory.

“That’s a huge shutdown inning to keep the momentum on your side and the fact that we just gave it back to them certainly wasn’t ideal,” Realmuto said.

The Phillies made their best impression of a Ringling Brothers act this end of the fifth. In a 4-4 game, Suarez yielded a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson and then beat Marcell Ozuna before being raised on 88 pitches in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarado.

Alvarado’s second pitch against Austin Riley was a wild pitch. Realmuto retrieved the wild pitch and threw into second as Swanson advanced. The throw was high and sailed past second baseman Jean Segura’s glove. It also eluded the grip of assisting shortstop Bryson Stott. Finally, the shot slipped into midfield, where he passed the onrushing Herrera. So, on one play, the ball got past three Phillies Segura, Stott and Herrera — and Swanson was able to hit the go-ahead run from first base without the batsman putting the ball in play.

Three pitches later, Riley put the ball in play and put the Braves in left field seats to give the Braves a 6-4 lead.

Only Herrera was charged with a playing error that no one made but there could have been more.

It was the second night in a row that a Phillies midfielder made an error that resulted in a run. Roman Quinn missed a flyball in the ground on the ninth Tuesday night.

There were other moments of sloppiness for the Phillies in Wednesday night’s game. Overly aggressive Bryce Harper, who had four hits, made a base-running error trying to make a double out of a single in the first inning, and Castellanos missed a cutoff man helping the Braves in the second inning to score a run.

“Little things add up, whether they’re good little things or bad little things,” Girardi said. “Sometimes they go unnoticed. Who knows what happens in the first inning, right? You know, there’s no guarantee we’ll score, but first and third with one out is better than third with two outs. Missing the cutoff man likely resulted in an extra run for them. That makes a big difference.”

Suarez was not sharp for the second game in a row. He allowed 10 base runners six hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. He was charged with five runs. The left-hander’s ERA after nine starts is 4.74, which no one expected.

“His command wasn’t the same as last year and we need to find a way to get him back on track,” Girardi said. “He was everywhere. He really missed his spots. He just left.”

Aaron Nola plays for the Phillies in the series finale Thursday night. The Phils need a win to avoid losing their 10th series this season. You only won four.

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