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Long ball lays waste to Pivetta's start vs. Braves

Harper makes history with 1,000th hit, 200th HR of career in 6th
@ToddZolecki
July 3, 2019

ATLANTA -- Gabe Kapler and the Phillies have been searching for ways to solve their home run problem. They said earlier this week that they picked up a trend with their pitching, making them “confident that there’s a specific adjustment that is going to help us get better.” But the

ATLANTA -- Gabe Kapler and the Phillies have been searching for ways to solve their home run problem.

They said earlier this week that they picked up a trend with their pitching, making them “confident that there’s a specific adjustment that is going to help us get better.” But the best laid ideas and plans do not always work. The Phillies allowed three home runs Wednesday night in a 9-2 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park. They fell to 45-41 and 5 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. The Nationals are just a half-game behind the Phillies.

Box score

If the Phillies lose and the Nationals win Thursday, the Phillies will leave Atlanta in third place.

“I think we all knew that was going to happen,” Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper said of the division's competitiveness. “I think as a division at the beginning of the year, we knew it was going to be a juggernaut. We’ve played some of our worst baseball that we can absolutely play in the month of June. To be able to still be in second … I’m not really worried about where teams are and whether they’re in front of us or behind us, it’s going to be a juggernaut of a division and I think it’s going to be like that for a long time. We’ve just got to play good baseball and hopefully win some games.”

Harper's milestone HR makes MLB history

Nick Pivetta allowed a three-run homer to Josh Donaldson in the fourth inning and a three-run homer to Austin Riley in the sixth. Juan Nicasio allowed a two-run homer to Matt Joyce in the sixth.

The Phillies have allowed 145 home runs in 86 games, putting them on pace to allow an eye-popping 273 over the course of the year. (They allowed 171 last season.) The Orioles entered Wednesday on pace to allow an even more remarkable 318 homers. To put those two projected totals into perspective, the 2016 Reds currently hold the big league record with 258 home runs allowed.

It looks like that record will fall in 2019.

Kapler declined to say what the Phillies learned Monday, citing competitive reasons.

“There’s nothing that’s been discovered that’s rocket science,” he said. “We examined what we’re doing. We’re examining what the league is doing. We’re making small adjustments along the way. We’re looking at adjustments that we can make that have no downside and only upside. We’re going to try some things to improve the fact that we’ve given up a lot of homers and can get better.”

Pivetta needs to get better. He is 0-2 with a 7.33 ERA (19 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings) in his last four starts. He has struck out 15, walked nine and allowed nine home runs in that stretch. He went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his first three starts following his return from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in May, which included the first complete game of his career on June 8 against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed two homers in 20 innings in that stretch.

“I'm just going to continue to battle,” Pivetta said. “Baseball's not an easy game. I'm still going to show up for my next start, do what I'm doing, working hard every single day. Just going to turn the page and just move on.”

Pivetta allowed his home run to Donaldson on a 1-0 curveball down in the zone. He allowed his homer to Riley on an 0-1 slider on the outer corner. Pivetta entered the game with batters slugging .806 against his four-seam fastball this year. They slugged .494 against the pitch last season.

He got beat on breaking balls Wednesday.

“I mean, just a good pitch to Donaldson down, got underneath it,” Pivetta said. “He's swinging the bat really well right now. And then Riley's pitch just needs to be down maybe an inch. Just an inch and I probably get out of that. But it was a little bit up. It was still off the plate, but he put a good swing on it.”

Nicasio’s homer to Joyce came on a 1-2 fastball at the top of the zone. Nicasio complained afterward of a strained left groin, which he said has been bothering him for a few days. He could be headed to the injured list.

“We'll keep working,” Kapler said. “That's what we do. We go back to work, turn the page and get ready for tomorrow.”

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