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Phils' playoff chances dealt a blow by Braves

Club falls 6 1/2 back in NL East as Atlanta reduces magic number to 4
September 20, 2018

ATLANTA -- Is it over?Not mathematically. Not yet. But the Phillies' faint postseason hopes took another hit Thursday night in an 8-3 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park. They took a hit in part because their season-long defensive issues showed up again as they fell 6 1/2 games behind

ATLANTA -- Is it over?
Not mathematically. Not yet. But the Phillies' faint postseason hopes took another hit Thursday night in an 8-3 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park. They took a hit in part because their season-long defensive issues showed up again as they fell 6 1/2 games behind Atlanta with 10 games to play. Even if the Phillies win nine of their remaining 10 games, they would need the Braves to finish no better than 2-7 to force a tie.
"We're not out of it," Rhys Hoskins said. "I don't know. I know the guys in this room don't think that. We still have a chance, and a good chance to make some noise the last three games here and take care of business in Colorado and go from there."
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler employed his best defensive outfield Thursday with Vince Velasquez on the mound. Kapler put Aaron Altherr in left field, Roman Quinn in center field and Odubel Herrera in right field. He moved Hoskins from left field to first base. He moved Carlos Santana from first base to third base.
Then the ball seemed to find most of them.
In the bottom of the first inning with the Phillies holding a 1-0 lead, Freddie Freeman hit a hard one-hopper toward Santana, who was shifted toward shortstop. Santana could not catch it, putting runners on first and second with one out. Nick Markakis followed with a single to score Ender Inciarte to tie the game.
Johan Camargo then hit a smash to Hoskins. Hoskins took his momentum to first base, touching the bag for the second out. Freeman, who was on third, ran home. Hoskins looked his way, but ultimately threw to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to get Markakis.
The Phillies got him in a rundown, but not until Freeman scored to make it 2-1.

"I mean, hindsight is 20-20," Hoskins said. "I think if I could do it again, I would go to second base instead of stepping on first."
Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro could not keep a ball in front of him on a wild pitch in the third inning that moved runners to second and third. Camargo's sacrifice fly scored Freeman to tie the game at 3.
Dansby Swanson hit a ball to left field to start the seventh. He charged hard around first base and reached second for a double. He scored on pinch-hitter Lucas Duda's double to give the Braves a 4-3 lead.

"The thing with this field is the ball really snakes out there, so it's really tough to charge balls," Altherr said when asked if he could have been more aggressive on the play. "I really wanted to charge a little harder, but just knowing how it plays, just like based on BP, I don't want to charge it super hard, get by me and it gets even further. It's just one of those plays where you give him credit -- he ran hard out of the box and was able to get there."
"I think Aaron can be more aggressive getting to that ball," Kapler said.
Luis Garcia started the eighth over Hector Neris and Seranthony Dominguez because Kapler wanted to use them if they had the lead or the game was tied. Garcia allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases. He then walked Swanson to score a run to make it 5-3.

The inning disintegrated from there as the Braves scored three more runs.
"We really liked the pocket of the lineup, the bottom of the lineup, for Luis," Kapler said. "We knew we had to cover potentially more innings and probably most critically, we had planned on using Seranthony and Neris with a tie ballgame or with a lead, given how much they've worked and given how much we may be leaning on them in the next couple of days. That's not to say we weren't doing anything but trying to win tonight's game."
They did not. And now they essentially need to win out.
"We'll come back tomorrow with still a fighting chance, right?" said Tommy Hunter, who surrendered the go-ahead hit to Duda. "We'll see what happens."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Phillies had runners on first and second with two outs in the third inning when Herrera singled to center field to drive home one run before Alfaro followed with an RBI single to right-center to hand the Phillies a 3-2 lead.

SOUND SMART
Velasquez allowed three runs in three innings in his fifth start this season against the Braves. He avoided becoming the first pitcher since the Astros' Dave Giusti in 1968 to lose each of his first five starts of the season to Atlanta. Velasquez went 0-4 with a 7.65 ERA this season against the Braves.

HE SAID IT
"It's unfortunate. It's definitely putting ourselves in a little bigger hole than what we would have wanted. Yeah, you definitely want to come out and win the first game in a must-win situation at this point in the season. And they put a couple balls in play and they put more runs up than we did. We could have pitched better. I could have pitched better." -- Hunter

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta faces Braves right-hander Julio Teheran on Friday in the second game of a four-game series at SunTrust Park, with first pitch set for 7:35 p.m. ET. If the Phillies want to catch Atlanta in the NL East and make the postseason, they need a strong effort from Pivetta, who is 0-4 with a 5.97 ERA in his past six starts. He has pitched more than five innings just once in that six-start stretch.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.