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Imperfect ten: Braves return gift-wrapped win to Phillies, 4-3

One of the strangest, most fundamentally unsound innings you’ll ever see led to the Braves’ fifth straight loss.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
This photo kind of represents this game, though Tyler Flowers didn’t have anything to do with this loss.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I will be honest: I had no fewer than five frameworks for this recap worked up over the course of this game. Here’s an overview:

  • The recap where the Braves lost a close game in which Jaime Garcia pitched valiantly. Garcia looked like his vintage self tonight, allowing just two runs in six innings on five hits and one walk while striking out six. He got seven groundouts to one flyout, and the two runs came largely off of one well-struck ball by Aaron Altherr in the sixth, which set up a second-and-third, none out situation.
  • The recap where Brandon Phillips took a mighty hack as the Braves were down to their last out and tied the game with a towering solo home run off of Edubray Ramos, leading to some kind of conclusion where the four-game winning streak was snapped.
  • The recap which would have listed a litany of Phillies errors and mental mistakes, including a couple of needless outs on the bases which limited their scoring, and most critically, a couple of infield gaffes that allowed Dansby Swanson to score the go-ahead (and winning) run in the tenth.
  • The recap which described how Jim Johnson danced in and out of hot water by allowing hot shots that the Braves couldn’t field, but ultimately wriggled his way out of trouble thanks in large part by a terrible 2-2 swing on a terrible breaking pitch by Odubel Herrera.

But, of course, there’s only one narrative that wraps everything up the way it happened, and that’s:

  • The recap where Maikel Franco hit an opposite-field wall ball to give the Phillies a 4-3, walkoff win, after Brandon Phillips and Dansby Swanson failed to corral consecutive grounders after the Braves took the lead in the 10th inning.

In case you did not have the “privilege” of witnessing this particular spectacle of poor fundamentals in the tenth inning, here’s what actually went down:

First, the important thing to note is that Brandon Phillips made the travesty possible, courtesy of a no-doubter solo shot that tied the game in the top of the ninth. Then, in the top of the tenth, Dansby Swanson led off the inning by swinging at a 3-1 grounder that found a hole. Emilio Bonifacio laid down a bunt that moved Swanson to second, but Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph received the throw, spun, and inexplicably fired to third, where no Phillies fielder was present. The errant throw allowed Swanson to move to third. The Phillies and reliever Jeanmar Gomez got a chance to escape the inning with the tie intact after Gomez struck out Ender Inciarte. But, with two outs, Adonis Garcia hit a weak chopper that Franco, at third base, fielded and threw on the run well wide of first base, allowing Garcia to reach safely and Swanson to cross the plate as the go-ahead run.

The Phillies could not have gift-wrapped the game any better for the Braves, but the Braves quickly sought to return the favor. Jim Johnson, looking to close out the game, easily dispatched Cameron Rupp with a swinging strikeout for the first out. Then, things unraveled in a hurry. Brock Stassi roped a single to left, and then Cesar Hernandez lined a ball up the middle, off of Johnson’s glove. The deflection allowed Phillips to get into position to make a play on the ball, but his barehanded attempt failed, and the Phillies had runners on first and second with one out. The next batter, Altherr, hit another grounder up the middle. Swanson dove and smothered it, but his lob was ineffectual and did not result in a forceout, loading the bases.

Johnson battled back to retire Odubel Herrera, with the coup de grace (of the plate appearance) coming on a terrible 2-2 curveball that Herrera (inexplicably) swung at to strike himself out. Unfortunately, that set up Maikel Franco, who watched the first pitch go by for a ball before creaming a wheelhouse fastball off the right-field wall for a walk-off, two-run double to end the game.

The Braves have now lost five consecutive games, with the last three losses coming by one run each. They’ll get a chance to salvage a game tomorrow afternoon, and try to put the memory of this game into the dustbin of history.

Not to be forgotten, though, should be Jaime Garcia’s good start, as mentioned above. Garcia looked like the pitcher he is when healthy and effective, getting a bucket of groundballs and limiting the damage. Also not to be forgotten is the continued assault of Freddie Freeman on pitching of all sorts: in this game, Freeman went 1-for-2 with three walks and stole a base, setting up the Braves’ first run as Brandon Phillips drove him in with a two-out double in the fourth. Freeman now has a .507 OBP for the year to go with a .551 wOBA and 253 wRC+.

The Braves fall to 6-11 on the season: they are currently tied with the Giants for the worst record in the NL, though the Giants will likely lose tonight’s game. Only the Blue Jays, at 4-12, currently have a worse record.

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