Lost weekend for Phillies in Atlanta — which way are they going in the last 16 games? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
ATLANTA — It was a moment that spoke volumes about how the weekend went for the Phillies.
Kyle Schwarber, unable to hold up his swing on a first-pitch slider by Atlanta Braves strikeout machine Spencer Strider, backed out of the batter’s box, took off his helmet and scratched his head questioningly.
Three pitches later, Schwarber went down and swung at 99.5 mph to end the top of the fifth inning. Frustrated, he threw away his bat and helmet.
It’s not time to panic about these Phillies, but definitely time to worry. At a time when they have to light the afterburners and take out their first post-season berth in ten years, they’ve lost four in a row.
The Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Phils on Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 victory. Strider held the Phillies hitless for the first 5⅔ innings and ended with 10 strikeouts in six innings. The rookie phenomenon is 4-0 against the Phillies this season. He gave up only three runs in 21⅓ innings and struckout 34.
After a weekend of going the wrong way in the NL wildcard race, the Phillies are using Monday’s day off to regroup. Then it’s two at home to Toronto, a team in the American League wildcard race, and four — gulp! — against these same Braves. Strider will get the start in one of those games.
Which way is this Phillies team headed? Are they out of gas? Are their holes finally catching up with them? Or was this just a bad weekend?
“It’s certainly disappointing,” said manager Rob Thomson. “But we have to keep going. I thought for the most part, we threw well and played a good defense. We just didn’t score many points. You know how attacking is, it comes and goes. They will get it.
“I think you just stay positive and understand that we’ve played good baseball for a long time and we’re going to play good baseball again. We’re playing good baseball. We’re just not scoring much right now. Keep doing what we’re doing.” are doing and the violation will click at some point.”
Better click fast.
The Phillies are in a three-team battle for two wildcards, threatening to slip half a game behind San Diego. They lead Milwaukee by two games. The Phils hold tiebreakers against both clubs. With 16 games to go in the regular season, the Phils need wins. That is it. Only victories will take them into the postseason and calm a doubting public scarred by previous September collapses.
Late September was particularly difficult for the Phillies. They lost six of their last seven last season, seven of their last eight in 2020, nine of their last twelve in 2019 and nine of their last eleven in 2018.
They are 7-8 this month.
‘Stinks of losing? Especially at this time of year? Sure,’ said Schwarber. “But there are still games to be played. I’m sure people from outside may (doubt) sneak in. But guys in the room, we’re looking forward to going out on Tuesday, going outside and playing that game Does it stink? Sure, it stinks obviously, but we’re looking forward to playing Tuesday.
“There’s another bigger picture to play out. We’ve got to turn the page. That’s all we can do. There’s no sitting back, sulking about, ‘Man, we could have done this. We could have can do.’ We lost the game. That’s it. We need to rejuvenate here. Take the day off (Monday) and get right back to work.”
Bailey Falter did the solid job of keeping Sunday’s game close. He gave up just one run in 4⅔ innings and got a great assist from Andrew Bellatti to get out of fifth, trailing 1-0.
That lead may have seemed enough for the Braves with the way Strider showed off his power fastball and wipeout slider. He didn’t give up a basehit until there were two outs in the sixth. At that point, Alec Bohm jumped a slider from the first pitch and sent it over the midfield wall to even out the game.
It didn’t last long. William Contreras hit a hanging full substitution for Connor Brogdon over the left field wall to break the tie in the bottom of the sixth and Robbie Grossman homered against Sam Coonrod in the seventh.
The Phillies were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position Sunday and a terrible 2 for 21 for the series.
“We’re missing some opportunities with runners on base,” Thomson said. “That’s all part of not scoring points. They will get it done.”
While Ronald Acuña Jr. gave the Braves two series wins almost personally, Bryce Harper went 1 for 12 with no walks and five strikeouts. He hits .222 (16 for 72) with 22 strikeouts since returning from the injured list and the Phils are 10-11 over that period.
Harper is far from the only struggling Phillies hitter.
JT Realmuto was 0 for 14 before homering in the ninth inning on Sunday.
Maybe it was a sign that the crime is getting underway this week. It must. It’s a 16-game sprint to the finish, time for the Phillies to turn it on. If they have anything left.