PHILADELPHIA — The Braves have not played well in recent series finales. They also have not fared well in day games this season.
Put the two together and you got Wednesday’s debacle.
“I think it’s just one of those weird things where it’s happened,” third baseman Austin Riley said of the struggles in series finales.
The Braves lost to the Phillies 7-2 in the type of lackluster game we haven’t often seen from the team since the start of June. The Braves (59-41) made mistake after mistake in their 100th game of the season and lost the series as a result.
The Braves are 1-8 in their past nine series finales, the lone win coming when they swept Washington a couple of weeks ago. They are 15-19 in day games. These specific issues haven’t hurt the Braves much because they’ve still won five out of seven series in July, but that didn’t make Wednesday’s game any easier to watch.
The Phillies scored five runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth. In those frames, the Braves committed multiple errors. Charlie Morton couldn’t get anyone out. This was a return to earlier in the season, when the Braves played more of these stinkers.
This was ugly.
“It was just a messy fifth,” Morton said.
“Just ended up being a (laborious) inning for him, pretty much,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Kind of shot ourselves in the foot there a couple times.”
Morton issued a leadoff walk to begin the bottom of the fifth. Morton, who has picked off three runners this season, then fired an errant throw over first base, which allowed the runner to go from first to third. That runner scored on a base hit.
Moments later, veteran second baseman Robinson Canó botched a routine grounder that could’ve started a double play. That set up a run-scoring single. And after that and a sacrifice fly, the Phillies led by three runs.
Morton issued another walk, and eventually, the Phillies stole three bases in the inning. Two came on a double steal that put runners on second and third for J.T. Realmuto, who drove home both with a single.
Just like that, Philadelphia led 5-0.
“I’m not going to look at that outing and just focus on that (fifth inning),” Morton said. “I think it’s more disappointing that I had pitched really well, team’s in a good spot and it’s just a really sloppy fifth.”
Phillies 7, Braves 2 (box score)
But it got worse.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, after Matt Olson cranked a two-run shot in the top half, the Braves allowed two more runs. Both were charged to Tyler Matzek, but his defense could’ve helped him. Nick Castellanos lifted a blooper into shallow right field that landed between Canó and Eddie Rosario and ended as a double instead of the first out.
Soon after, Alec Bohm doubled home a run. That and a sacrifice fly pushed the Phillies’ lead back to five.
Facing a lineup without Ronald Acuña, Phillies starter Kyle Gibson held the Braves to two runs – both on Olson’s 20th homer of the season – over six innings. The Braves didn’t record a single at-bat with runners in scoring position and without Olson’s homer wouldn’t have had a base runner round second. Riley’s hitting streak ended at 18 games.
“He was keeping the ball out of the zone a little bit, and keeping us off balance,” Snitker said of Gibson. “Didn’t have really good swings at him or good passes at him early on. He did a good job.”
The struggling Rosario had two more hits, a good sign on a rough day. Everyone not named Rosario combined to go 3-for-28.
Morton allowed five runs – four earned – on six hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked two, but fell apart in the fifth.
The Braves still are in a good position in the final days of July. With the Tuesday trade deadline looming, they could even receive a boost from president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos.
But for all of their success, they have been strangely incapable of winning series finales
They lost a strange game Monday, when A.J. Minter allowed a go-ahead homer with two outs in the eighth. Wednesday was no fluke: The Braves were uncharacteristically sloppy.
“We were an out away from probably winning the series,” Snitker said. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to have to fight through some adversity. We have before and we will again.”
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