Phillies vs. Braves: Phils lose series opener as Matt Olson homers twice

·5 min read

Phillies brutal with runners in scoring position, taken deep twice by Olson in loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Freddie Freeman is gone. Now his Atlanta Braves successor is tormenting the Phillies.

The Phils opened an important nine-game homestand Tuesday night with a 5-3 loss to the Braves. Olson provided the game's decisive blow, a tie-breaking solo homer against reliever Andrew Bellatti with one out in the top of the eighth inning.

The homer was Olson's second of the game and it came just moments after Mr. June, Kyle Schwarber, had tied the game with a solo homer in the seventh.

Olson teamed with Travis d'Arnaud to go back-to-back against Zack Wheeler in the first inning. It was surprising to see Wheeler give up consecutive home runs in a span of eight pitches. He'd allowed only three homers in 74⅔ innings over his first 13 starts this season.

Wheeler seemed perturbed after the game.

D'Arnaud's homer came on a 1-2 fastball; Olson's on a 3-2 slider. Both pitches were up in the zone.

"I didn't finish guys," the right-hander said. "That was frustrating. I didn't have my best command, haven't had it the last couple of starts. I get two strikes on guys, I need to finish 'em, not make those mistakes. It cost me the past couple of games."

The Phillies have lost in both of Wheeler's last two starts.

Despite his early struggles, Wheeler kept the Phils in the game with 6⅓ innings of three-run, eight-strikeout ball. The Bryce Harper-less offense, however, struggled to cash in on a number of opportunities against Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton, who allowed seven hits and four walks over 5⅔ innings. Phillies hitters were just 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

"I think you feel like you miss Bryce every night," manager Rob Thomson said. "But we've got to get it done."

Harper will have surgery on Wednesday.

Mickey Moniak started in center field and had a difficult night. Hitting out of the No. 9 spot, he left two runners in scoring position when he struck out to end the fourth. In the sixth, he popped out to center field with runners on the corners and the Phils down a run.

Thomson had pinch-hitting options but stuck with Moniak against lefty reliever Dylan Lee in the sixth. Thomson cited Moniak's familiarity with Lee in the minor leagues as one of the reasons he stayed with Moniak. The manager also said he wanted to hold his right-handed pinch-hitters for later in the game when the Braves could employ their best lefty arms, A.J. Minter and Will Smith.

Moniak is 4 for 28 on the season. He is 0 for 15 with nine strikeouts in his career against left-handed pitching.

In addition to the missed chances in the fourth and sixth innings, the Phils ran themselves out of a potential rally in the third inning when Rhys Hoskins was doubled off first base on a sinking line drive to right field. Adam Duvall caught the ball at his feet, but Hoskins was unsure of the catch and got caught between first and second.

"That's a screwed up play," Schwarber said. "No one can see or hear the out call."

As for the Phillies' other missed chances ...

"We all wish that we would've come through every single time, but it's the nature of the game," Schwarber said.

Schwarber's 11th June homer came against Lee on the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh and tied the game at 3-3.

The Phillies' bullpen entered the game riding a 16⅔ scoreless innings streak and Corey Knebel added to it with a pair of outs in the seventh.

Thomson went to Bellatti in a tie game in the eighth. He struck out d'Arnaud to open the frame before Olson scorched a hanging 2-1 slider over the wall in right-center to give Atlanta the lead. The Braves padded the advantage with a run against Brad Hand in the ninth.

Olson is in his first season with the Braves, who acquired him in a trade with Oakland as Freeman was moving to the Dodgers via free agency in March.

In eight career games against the Phillies, Olson has six homers, three in five games with the Braves this season. He's following the lead of Freeman, who feasted on Phillies pitching during his time in Atlanta. In 201 career games against the Phils, Freeman has 30 homers and 122 RBIs.

The Phillies are now 2-3 against the Braves this season. The two NL East rivals meet 14 more times, including Wednesday night when Ranger Suarez will pitch against right-hander Kyle Wright.

As good as the Phillies' month of June has been -- they are 18-7 -- the Braves' has been better. They are 20-5 this month and have closed the gap on the first-place New York Mets to four games in the NL East.

The Phils (39-36) are eight games back in the division and three back in the wild-card chase. Their next five games are against two of the teams they're looking up at in the wild card race -- Atlanta and St. Louis.

"We need to win," Wheeler said, short, sweet and right on the money.

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