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

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


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

“We gave it away,” manager Joe Girardi said after his team’s 8-4 loss Wednesday night in the home of the Braves.

The Braves broke open a 4-4 game with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Reliever Jose Alvarado threw a wild pitch and gave up a homer in the inning and center fielder Odubel Herrera made a costly error on a ball that eluded everyone but the peanut vendor.

It was the Phillies’ seventh defeat in the last 10 games, dropping them back to four games under .500 at 20-24.

They have not been five games under .500 this season and the feeling inside the clubhouse is one of dejection.

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

“We have to do better in all aspects of the game. We’re not pitching well enough. We’re not hitting well enough. We’re not playing defense well enough.

“It’s pretty somber right now in this clubhouse after this loss and that’s how it should be. Because we expect to win. We just have to play better if we want to get to where we want to go.”

The Phillies won the first game of the series Monday night. Their two straight losses have coincided with the first-place New York Mets losing two straight. The Phils have squandered a chance to pick up ground in the NL East and remain eight games behind the Mets while the Braves are seven back.

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

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

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

Suarez has given up six homers in 43 2/3 innings this season. Last season, he allowed just four in 106 innings.

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

The Braves came right back and took control of the game in the bottom of the fifth and rolled to the win.

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

The Phillies did their best impression of a Ringling Brothers act in that bottom of the fifth. In a 4-4 game, Suarez gave up a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson then struck out Marcell Ozuna before being lifted at 88 pitches in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarado.

Alvarado’s second pitch to Austin Riley was a wild pitch. Realmuto retrieved the wild pitch and threw to second as Swanson advanced. The throw was high and sailed past second baseman Jean Segura’s glove. It also eluded the grasp of shortstop Bryson Stott, who was backing up on the play. Finally, the throw skittered into center field, where it got by the charging Herrera. So, on one play, the ball got by three Phillies Segura, Stott and Herrera – and Swanson was able to score the go-ahead run from first base without the hitter putting the ball in play.

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

Only Herrera was charged with an error on the play that nobody made, but there could have been more.

It was the second night in a row that a Phillies center fielder made an error that led to a run. Roman Quinn missed a fly ball in the bottom of 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 blunder trying to stretch a single into a double in the first inning and Castellanos missed a cutoff man that helped the Braves score a run in the second.

“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 that we score, but first and third with one out is better than third with two outs. Missing the cutoff man probably led to an extra run for them. It makes a big difference.”

Suarez was not sharp for the second outing in a row. He allowed 10 base runners on six hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. He was charged with five runs. The left-hander’s ERA is 4.74, not what anyone expected, after nine starts.

“His command has not been the same as it was last year, and we’ve got to find a way to get him back on track,” Girardi said. “He was all over the place. He was missing his spots really bad. He’s just off.”

Aaron Nola pitches for the Phillies in the series finale Thursday night. The Phils will need a win to avoid losing their 10th series this season. They have won just four.

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