Phillies hit 3 HRs but fall to Braves on walk-off

June 15th, 2019

ATLANTA -- promised that Saturday will be different if he gets another opportunity to save another game for the Phillies.

Maybe he does. But the right-hander could not hold a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Friday night’s crushing 9-8 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park. Neris had two outs with a runner on second base when he walked Nick Markakis on four pitches. He allowed a double to Austin Riley to score one run and a walk-off two-run single to Brian McCann that ended the game. The Phillies have lost nine of their last 14 games and are now 2 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East. The red-hot Braves have won eight consecutive games.

“Tomorrow, you know I got it tomorrow, for sure,” Neris said.

Bryce Harper, Scott Kingery and Rhys Hoskins each homered to hand the Phillies a 7-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh. But the Braves scored twice in the seventh and twice in the eighth to make it a two-run game, putting a deep and talented Atlanta lineup in position to strike in the ninth.

Riley hit a 1-2 splitter from Neris to left field for a double. Phillies left fielder Jay Bruce could not catch it, but he saved the game momentarily for the Phillies when he caught the ball barehanded as it kicked back toward center field.

"He was throwing splitter, splitter, splitter after splitter,” Riley said. “I knew if he got it up in the zone, I’d be able to handle it. Luckily he did, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”

McCann dropped his bat on a 2-2 splitter. The ball carried toward left-center field. Bruce might not have gotten his best jump on a ball with a 65 percent catch probability, according to Statcast. It fell in front of him. Both runs scored.

“I felt like I got a fine jump, I felt like it was just placed perfectly,” Bruce said. “Obviously, hindsight being 20/20, if I dive for it ... we'll never know. I didn't feel like I could get to it. I really didn't. It's tough. I wanted to get to it, I just don't feel like I could have.”

McCann hit a solo home run in the seventh inning on a 1-1 fastball that was up and in from Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta. The fly ball had an Expected Batting Average (xBA) of just .030, according to Statcast.

“It's his first home run -- or his first hit -- on the inside corner of the plate,” Pivetta said.

McCann’s ninth-inning single had an xBA of .190.

“He got soft contact on a pitch I threw for a strike,” Neris said. “He got terrible contact on that single. I can't control that.”

Both still counted.

“A crushing loss, no way around it,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We had a two-run lead in the ninth inning with our best reliever on the mound. Neris has been tremendous for us all year long. Outstanding for a full calendar year. Can’t wait to get him back out on the mound in that same kind of situation. We have the highest level of trust with him in that situation. We felt really good in the dugout about it. It’s just a devastating loss. We’ll lick our wounds, come back tomorrow and be ready to fight again.”

The Braves traditionally show highlights of big comebacks against the team they are playing on the center-field scoreboard before the ninth inning. Before Neris threw his first pitch, they showed their walk-off victory over the Phillies on Opening Day in 2018 -- Freddie Freeman’s two-run homer off Hoby Milner -- Ozzie Albies’ solo shot against Adam Morgan and, of course, Markakis’ three-run game-ending homer off Neris in the ninth.

The defeat snapped a streak of 17 consecutive converted save opportunities for Neris.

The Phillies are 2-9 at SunTrust Park since the beginning of last season, including four consecutive late losses last September, which eliminated them from postseason contention. It has been a rough place for the Phillies to play. Friday only added to their frustration.

“I think independent of the stadium, that’s a game that we expect to win every time,” Kapler said.

But now they must forget it and win Saturday. They must try to bounce back.

“It's how we respond,” Pivetta said. “I think we're going to respond really, really well tomorrow.”