A pair of home runs from Ronald Acuña Jr. and Austin Riley helped give the Braves the offensive production that they needed to get past a feisty Phillies team and get even closer to finally clinching their second consecutive NL East title.
It took a while for some scoring to materialize, but it happened in the third inning with two outs and it came from a man who is currently chasing history. Ronald Acuña Jr. put the Braves on the board with a massive dinger that landed in the Hank Aaron Terrace for two runs. That was Acuña’s 40th homer of the season and it put him in the company of Eddie Matthews and Mel Ott as being the only three players age-21 or younger to hit 40 homers in one season. Most importantly, it put the Braves in the lead in this particular contest.
All was quiet until the fifth inning, which was when the Phillies struck back. First, Scott Kingery hit a liner to center that Acuña attempted to catch with a sliding effort. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and by the time Kingery stopped running, he was at third base with a triple. Adam Haseley followed it up with a double and the Phillies were on the board. To make things even more frustrating, Aaron Nola continued what has been a bizarre streak of success for opposing pitchers at the plate against the Braves by slapping a single into left field. A groundout from Cesar Hernandez tied the game at two and that’s how it would stay.
The tie was only intact for a few minutes. Brian Snitker chose to pull Soroka at that point and put the bat in Matt Joyce’s hands for the bottom of the fifth. He duly delivered by hitting a single and then Acuña followed it up with a walk. With one out and both runners in scoring position after a groundout, Gabe Kapler made a curious deicision to pitch to Freddie Freeman instead of picking their spot with the drop in quality from the three spot to the rest of the lineup. Kapler quickly regretted this decision, as Freeman hit the first pitch he saw into right field for a single that put Atlanta back in the lead and also restored their two-run lead from earlier. Additionally, Adam Duvall struck out and Adeiny Hechavarria hit a soft pop up to end the inning, so the Phillies got to see what would have happened had they intentionally walked one of the best hitters in the National League.
The Phillies got a run back in the top of the sixth (but it cost them Jean Segura after he clutched at his hamstring after making it to first base), but the Braves once again made a move to negate Philadelphia’s advances. This time, Austin Riley woke up from his slumber and mashed a huge opposite-field homer into the left side of the Chop House to put Atlanta back up by two runs again.
Philadelphia refused to just lay down, as they loaded up the bases with one out in the eighth inning against Shane Greene. Amazingly, Greene was able to shake out of the danger with just one run allowed via a sacrifice fly, so the Braves eventually went into the ninth inning with a one-run lead.
Mark Melancon was brought on for closing duties and he did just that, as he retired the Phillies in 1-2-3 order to lock down Atlanta’s 94th win of the season and lop that Magic Number in the NL East down to just one. That’s it — one Braves win or one Nationals loss and another divisional flag is official.
The Braves have had a stranglehold on the divisional lead for most of the season, but it always feels good to just get things over with and it appears that the Braves are inching closer and closer to finally raising a divisional flag for a second year in a row. It wasn’t exactly ideal to drop the series to the Phillies, but the Braves still got a win out of the ordeal and now they can hopefully celebrate a divisional title this weekend when the Giants roll into town.