Phillies vs. Braves: Two walk-offs in two days equals second place in NL East

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For Phillies, two walk-offs in two days equals second place in NL East originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Captain America was not the star of this Phillies’ victory, but that’s not to say the impact of his heroics from the night before did not carry over.

The Phillies made it two walk-off wins in a row when they rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon.

The win gave the Phillies (30-31) a series win and moved them ahead of the Braves (29-31) for second place in the NL East.

Alec Bohm, Odubel Herrera and Jean Segura had big hits in the 10th. Segura, who drove in three of the Phillies’ four runs, won it with a shot off the wall in left-center. It was scored a single, but who cares, two runs scored to give the Phils their second dramatic win in less than 24 hours.

On Wednesday night, the Phils won, 2-1, when rookie Luke Williams, fresh off a stellar performance in which he helped Team USA qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — hence the nickname Captain America — clubbed a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

It was the win of the season and the Phillies, a team desperately in need of a spark, were still feeling the positive vibes on Thursday. 

“The walk-off yesterday was huge,” Segura said. “It gave us momentum to play a little bit better. To be able to win this one today, to come from behind, especially after we gave it up in the top of the 10th, that’s huge. That tells you what type of team and what type of ability we have to play this game. I think if we keep it together like that, I think this team could be really, really good.”

Time will tell how good the Phillies will be. They haven't exactly inspired confidence over the first 61 games. They have a lot of flaws and a number of them were on display in this series. But winning makes everything feel a little better. It can put a happy face on even the ugliest of circumstances, such as a blown one-run lead in the ninth and three walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball in the 10th. That all happened in this one.

The Phillies have won consecutive series for the first time since the first week of the season.

“It’s significant because the alternative was you don’t win today and you give away a great opportunity to win another series against a team in your division,” manager Joe Girardi said. “To me, it’s great. We get an off day, the guys can enjoy it a little bit and then we get back to work on Saturday.”

For eight innings Thursday, one word described the Phillies’ pitching: Brilliant. Zack Wheeler pitched shutout ball, scattered four hits, walked none and struck out 12.

“He’s a big reason we had a chance to win that game,” Girardi said. 

Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract before the 2020 season. He’s been worth it so far. In 24 starts with the club, he has a 2.57 ERA.

His ERA in 13 starts this season is 2.29 and he has five double-digit strikeout games. Don’t be surprised if he’s in Denver for the All-Star Game next month.

Lack of run support remains a huge issue for Wheeler. He allowed just two runs in 7 1/3 innings in his previous start but lost 2-1 to Washington. 

In this one, the Phillies got Wheeler a run in the bottom of the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Herrera and Segura. It would have been enough for a win, but Hector Neris was tagged for a game-tying homer by Freddie Freeman with one out in the top of the ninth. Herrera, who cost himself a triple by not running hard on his double in the eighth, could have robbed the homer and saved everyone a lot of grief, but he mistimed his jump at the wall.

Freeman, by the way, has 29 homers and 117 RBIs in 187 career games against the Phillies.

The top of the 10th was a disaster for the Phillies with Jose Alvarado walking three batters and giving up a run on a wild pitch. Another scored on a bases-loaded passed ball charged to Rafael Marchan.

Alvarado’s wildness — he has 28 strikeouts but 22 walks in 21 2/3 innings — has the potential to break hearts and it almost did in this one. Less than 24 hours after Williams blew the lid off the place, Alvarado walked off the mound to the sound of boos from the crowd of 14,261. 

“It’s what you’re going to get,” Girardi said of Alvarado. “You’re going to get ground balls, strikeouts and walks. I really like the idea of two of the things you’re going to get — ground balls and strikeouts. I mean, (wildness) happens to him.”

Atlanta reliever Chris Martin allowed three hits in the bottom of the 10th.

Segura had the big one, a drive off the wall to cap a three-RBI day.

“I thought it was enough to walk it off for me, so that’s why I pimped it a little bit,” Segura said of his slow trot out of the box. “At the end of the day, it’s a walk-off and we come home with a win.

“Every time you get a clutch hit, that’s a really good feeling. That’s the beauty of baseball. When you get those walk-offs, when you get in those tight games and situations, and when you come through, that’s what people most look at.”

The Phillies hadn’t had consecutive walk-off wins since June 26-27, 2019. Segura won one of those games. Friday is an off day and the Yankees come in on Saturday.

“When you're struggling a little bit here and there, you look for these type of moments,” Wheeler said. “(Wednesday) speaks for itself. It doesn't matter how we get the win, as long as you can get it. These past two days have been exciting and hopefully we can carry that into this weekend.”

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