January 30, 2023

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Phillies' small miscues lead to big results for Braves

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ATLANTA — José Alvarado finally got his opportunity to pitch at Truist Park.

He warmed up in the ninth inning in Tuesday’s excruciating walk-off loss to the Braves, but Phillies manager Joe Girardi chose Nick Nelson to pitch instead. But in Wednesday’s 8-4 loss to Atlanta, Girardi chose Alvarado to replace Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez in the fifth with a runner on first and one out in a tie game.

Alvarado spiked an 0-1 curveball in the dirt to Austin Riley in the dirt. Realmuto blocked it, but the ball kicked up the third-base line. Realmuto picked it up and fired a throw to second base to get Dansby Swanson. Jean Segura missed the throw. Bryson Stott was moving to his left to back up Segura. He also missed it.

The ball rolled into center field. Swanson remained at second base, expecting Phillies center fielder Odúbel Herrera to field it. But Herrera let the ball roll underneath his glove and continue toward the warning track.

Swanson turned and strolled home to give the Braves a 5-4 lead.

“I knew Alvarado will throw some in the dirt with his breaking balls,” Swanson said. “I was on alert and read the ball down out of his hand. I took second and once I saw the ball in the outfield, I sort of started to make my way.”

It was Alvarado’s fourth wild pitch of the season, which is tied for fifth-most in baseball. It was Herrera’s first error.

“I don’t know what happened honestly,” Realmuto said. “It all happened pretty fast. The ball kicked away from me. I saw he was going. I made a throw to second. Seggy just kind of whiffed on it, I guess. I haven’t actually gone back and looked at the replay yet. And then I saw he was kind of deke-ing [Swanson] to keep it at second base. I thought the play was over, honestly. I thought we were just going to get it back in. I saw him start running to third. I was blocked by Seggy at second, so I didn’t see what happened in center field. I just saw him running after the ball and the guy scoring.

“I’ve never seen that play before in the big leagues. It’s hard to understand why those plays are happening to us right now.”

Riley homered on a 2-2 pitch to take a 6-4 lead. Alvarado allowed a single and two walks to load the bases before he induced an inning-ending double play. His night was finished, but the damage was done. The bullpen gave up two more runs as the Phillies have lost seven of 10 games since their 5-2 road trip against the Mariners and Dodgers.

Wednesday’s loss compounded Tuesday’s loss because the Phillies stole that game with Bryce Harper’s go-ahead homer in the ninth. It would have been their third consecutive victory and moved them within a game of .500.

Instead, the Phillies are 20-24 overall. They need to win Thursday’s series finale to split the series.

Harper went 4-for-5 with two doubles on Wednesday, but he got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the first. The Phillies would have had runners at the corners with one out. Instead, they had a runner on third with two outs. They did not score. Nick Castellanos missed the cutoff man on a play in the second, which allowed Ozzie Albies to reach second. It put him in position to score on a single to right.

“Little things add up to big results,” Girardi said. “Whether they’re good little things or bad little things that you do.”

The Phillies’ clubhouse is typically quiet following a loss. These last two have been particularly quiet.

“The mood is not good obviously,” 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 go out there and 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. Really the only thing to do is go out there and play better. 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.”

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