Coming into the weekend four-game series with the Phillies, the Braves and their fans had a small slice of consolation that could be summed up in a few words: "At least we aren't that team from Philadelphia." While the future may look bright for the Braves, it was the men in red-and-white that outshone the Braves for a second straight night, extending the Atlanta losing streak to five games in the process.
The Philadelphia bats wasted no time asserting their dominance in this contest. After a scoreless top of the first against David Buchanan despite two hits, Williams Perez took the mound for the Braves in his return from the disabled list and promptly allowed two singles and a walk. Following that, potential figment of the imagination that exists only to torment Braves fans "Ryan Howard" stepped to the plate and killed a first pitch get-me-over not-quite-a-sinker from Perez into right-center field, scoring all three Phillies baserunners. Perez would then allow another hit to Domonic Brown and a sacrifice fly from Freddy Galvis before finally, mercifully, getting Buchanan to ground out to end the inning.
Perez would settle down and allow just three baserunners over the next free frames, but the third time through the order proved deadly to his efforts. Howard led off the fifth with a single and then quickly came to score as Domonic Brown mauled a ball to center for a two-run dinger (no, not the Rockies' mascot, a home run). Brown had a 72 wRC+ this season and a .085, and that was after his homer against the Braves yesterday. He's now homered in consecutive games and appears to be absorbing the genetic material necessary to torment the Braves while being terrible against everyone else from Ryan Howard. Things only got more brutal for the Braves from that point on: Perez allowed three more singles in the inning, the last one a run-scoring liner from opposing pitcher David Buchanan, before mercifully being pulled.
The next Braves hurler was Matt Marksberry, making his major league debut. Unfortunately, he didn't quite hit the mark in his first batters of work, as he allowed two singles and a run-scoring walk to Guess Who (no, not Pat Burrell). The Braves trailed by nine runs after five innings, and everyone was sad. Or apathetic. One of the two. Marksberry was somewhat better in the sixth, getting the Phillies in order on three flyouts. Jake Brigham and Andrew McKirahan also tossed consecutive perfect innings to close out the pitching ledger for the Braves.
The hitting ledger, well... if you can think of a more apt word than "blah," be my guest. David Buchanan had posted an ERA of 7.00 coming into the game, with a similarly ugly xFIP of over 5.00. So of course, he held the Braves scoreless until the 7th, hardly laboring. Until he finally allowed a run, he was averaging just 11 pitches per inning or thereabouts. Eury Perez eventually drove in Adonis Garcia (who had doubled to start the inning) with a two-out single to break up Buchanan's shutout. Later, in the 8th, Freddie Freeman would hit a liner that cleared that fence in left field off of Buchanan for a two-run homer, bringing the total number of Braves' runs to a somewhat respectable number (if you squint, and forget that they were playing in the Citizens' Bandbox). That would be the last score in the game, as Jace Peterson and Andrelton Simmons failed to capitalize on a two-on, one-out situation later in the inning.
Justin De Fratus and some guy named Dalier Hinojosa who was recalled earlier today from AAA-Lehigh Valley closed out the game for the Phils.
Buchanan and Howard were the clear MVPs for the Phillies in this game: Buchanan ventured in the 8th and allowed 8 hits and 1 run while walking none; Howard went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs, and 4 runs driven in. Perez was very much the weak link for the Braves, allowing 9 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in 4 and 1/3 innings of work. AJ Pierzynski had three hits (fountain of youth, ho!) and Freeman cranked the aforementioned homer, but it was a sorry effort with the majority of the non-outs coming in garbage time for the Braves.
The Braves also played some dreadful defense this game, but I think it was depressing enough without detailing all that. Suffice to say, the Braves now have a record closer to the Phillies (the worst in baseball) than they do to the Nationals (who have the worst record among division leaders in baseball). This game was a fitting capper to a July where the Braves went 10-16 with a dreadful run differential. With all that said, the Braves will get a chance to turn over a new leaf as the calendar goes to August; they still have a chance to tie this series with wins over the weekend.