Dallas Keuchel has been lights-out for weeks and, through three innings on Tuesday evening, the former Cy Young winner looked to be in complete control. However, things went south for the left-hander and, with a five-run barrage as the catalyst, the Philadelphia Phillies upended the Atlanta Braves by a final score of 5-4 in the series opener.
It was the Braves that struck first on Tuesday evening, with Ozzie Albies putting on a show in contributing a triple in the first inning.
After Freddie Freeman earned a walk, Josh Donaldson brought Albies to the plate with a sacrifice fly and the Braves took a 1-0 lead. Then, Nick Markakis singled, setting the stage for Matt Joyce, and the veteran outfielder singled to score Freeman and provide Keuchel with a two-run edge.
Keuchel, who entered the night with a 0.97 ERA in his last six starts and 37 innings, retired the first eight batters and only a single by opposing pitcher Vince Velasquez spoiled a no-hitter effort in the early going. However, the fourth inning was disastrous and the Braves saw their lead evaporate as a result.
Bryce Harper started Philadelphia’s rally with a single, though it is worth noting that Donaldson contributed to that effort by misplaying the ball. Then, Rhys Hoskins blasted a home run to knot the scoring at 2-2 and the damage wasn’t done there.
Keuchel then allowed back-to-back singles, one of which was off his own glove, and an RBI groundout gave the Phillies the lead. Not to be outdone, Jose Pirela took Keuchel deep for the second home run of the inning and, in the blink of an eye, the Phillies held a 5-2 lead.
The two home runs were more, in one inning, than Keuchel allowed in the previous six starts combined, and he navigated only five frames before giving way to the bullpen. At that point, the Braves still had a live chance for a comeback but, ultimately, that never materialized.
Atlanta threatened in both the fifth and sixth innings, placing runners in scoring position, but nothing came of either. The trio of Darren O’Day, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak kept the Phillies in check with three scoreless frames, but the Braves still came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth trailing by a three-run margin.
Adeiny Hechavarria did his part to provide a spark, hammering a solo home run with two outs.
For good measure, Hechavarria’s big fly was also a record-setter, as the Braves now have 236 home runs as a team. That is the most in any season in franchise history and, well, there are almost two weeks remaining in the campaign.
Even with that timely home run, the Braves still faced a two-run deficit as the ninth inning arrived, and the home team was unable to pull off the comeback. There was a bit of a tease, though, when Adam Duvall belted his own solo shot to left field to bring Atlanta within a 5-4 margin.
The Braves weren’t done there, with Acuña drawing a walk and immediately stealing his 37th base of the season.
After a groundout to first base from Albies to move Acuña to third, Freeman walked and that brought Donaldson to plate with runners on the corners and only one out. In untimely fashion, the veteran third baseman struck out looking and Markakis then disappointingly popped up to end the game.
There were certainly bright spots, from the strong work of the bullpen to the spectacular swings of Hechavarria and Duvall. Still, the Braves exited SunTrust Park with their magic number still at 3 and the St. Louis Cardinals failed to help Atlanta in falling to the Washington Nationals.
The Braves and Phillies will continue their three-game set on Wednesday evening, with Julio Teheran facing off against Zach Eflin. Stay tuned.