Bryce Harper, Gregory Soto discuss Phillies' tough loss to Braves

'It's been frustrating,' Soto says of Jekyll and Hyde performances as a Phillie originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ATLANTA -- Gregory Soto got his first taste of the Phillies-Braves rivalry Thursday night. It didn't go so hot.

The lefty Soto entered a tied game in the bottom of the eighth inning with left-handed-hitting Eddie Rosario and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies due up. After beginning the frame by striking out pinch-hitter Kevin Pillar, Soto put five straight Braves on base -- single, double, walk, two-run single, single -- and three of them came around to score in an 8-5 Phillies loss.

Scroll to continue with content

It put a damper on an exciting night that had a big-game feel and included Phillies comebacks to tie or take a lead in three separate innings.

Soto's first two months in a Phillies uniform have been strange. To say he's had ups and downs would be putting it lightly.

He couldn't throw strikes in two of his first three appearances, then allowed one hit and no earned runs over his next 11.

He was hit hard on May 2 at Dodger Stadium for four runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning, then he went six straight outings without allowing a hit or a run.

He was hit hard again on May 17 in San Francisco, allowing three runs on five hits. Then he rebounded against the Cubs and Diamondbacks before giving up three more runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning Thursday night.


"It's been frustrating, it's been a little difficult because I either have really good outings or really bad outings," Soto said through Phillies interpreter Diego Ettedgui.

"I like moments like (tonight). I like rivalries like this. I feel that I'm ready for them. All I can tell you is that I'm going to keep working hard."

The first meeting of 2023 between the Phillies and Braves included five home runs. The only full innings neither team scored were the third and the sixth. Austin Riley demolished two of Aaron Nola's offerings for homers that traveled 458 and 459 feet. Marcell Ozuna also took Nola deep.

Yet the Phillies came back in the second, fifth and seventh innings to either tie the Braves or take the lead. Alec Bohm launched a two-run shot to center. Bryce Harper homered 445 feet to right and started a rally two innings later with a two-out bunt single.


The Phillies hit. They just didn't pitch.

"It's always a grind against these guys," said Nola, who has made 32 career starts against the Braves, four more than he's made against any team and 11 more than he's made against the Marlins, for example.

Riley, Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. have all seen Nola more than they've seen any other big-league pitcher.

"I've faced these guys like 50 times," he said. "They have pretty much the same squad. They've got a good club. It's not the last time I'm going to face them. Throw this one behind me and get ready for New York."


This is a crucial juncture for the 23-27 Phillies. They have nine more games on their road trip against the Braves, Mets and Nationals. They're already eight games behind the Braves in the division. They have shown flashes of their potential but have not played consistent baseball in any phase.

The 31-19 Braves have been far superior and have a clear identity as an offensive juggernaut. They lead the National League in slugging, OPS and runs per game.

The Phillies eliminated the Braves from the 2022 playoffs and are 37-37 against them dating back to the end of 2018, so they know they can stand toe-to-toe with the team that has won five straight NL East crowns. But this is a new year. That magic carpet ride from October 2022 is just a memory.

"Coming in here, we'll never think as a team that we can't beat these guys," Harper said. "They're a good team. We're a good team, as well. We grinded at-bats really well. Riley took two good swings and that was the difference today. Not too shocked at the way both teams bounced back. We'll see what happens tomorrow."