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Phillies' winning streak ends in crushing fashion in Atlanta originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Phillies’ five-game winning streak ended in devastating, almost impossible to believe fashion Saturday night in Atlanta with blown leads in the ninth, 11th and 12th innings.
With the Braves trailing by two and down to their final strike, Pablo Sandoval hit a game-tying home run off of Hector Neris in the ninth.
The Phillies took an 11th-inning lead on Nick Maton's RBI double but lost it on a throwing error by Didi Gregorius that tied the game.
They took a three-run lead in the 12th but lost it when Enyel De Los Santos walked the leadoff hitter, then allowed a single and a bases-clearing double to William Contreras. Ehire Adrianza walked the Braves off with a single against Matt Moore.
The way the Phillies lost this 8-7 game sours what had been a momentum-building week filled with close wins. On the other side, this is the sort of win that has a chance to wake up the Braves.
"I think momentum’s only as good as your starting pitcher the next day. We’ll find out," manager Joe Girardi said. "But I still feel good about how hard our guys fought tonight, the energy, the passion we’re playing with. No one’s going to be perfect and there’s going to be days things don’t go our way, but I still love the way we’re playing."
The Phillies are 18-16 and still in search of their first road series win of the season.
It was Neris' second blown save in eight attempts. The Phillies seem to deal with the Neris-in-the-ninth-inning question around this time every season and it will certainly be a topic after his 92 mph center-cut fastball to Sandoval landed in the seats at Truist Park.
"It was a high-emotion game," Neris said. "I think it won’t affect my mentality, it will just make it more strong to come back tomorrow and get a win. The game is away, the game passed, tomorrow is a new day. Same as if you get a save, you have to focus on the next day."
Girardi gave Neris a vote of confidence after the game when asked if he's still committed to him as the closer.
“Hector’s done a good job for us. He’s pitched well for us," Girardi said. "... It’s easy to second-guess pitches. He didn’t hit his spot, that was the problem."
The Phils were on the brink of winning twice even after Neris’ blown save thanks to Brandon Kintzler, Maton and bad defense from Braves pitcher Jacob Webb. Maton had a go-ahead RBI double in the 11th after Kintzler escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 10th.
The Phillies then plated two runs in the 12th when Webb sailed a throw home with the bases loaded on a routine ball back to the mound and forgot to cover the plate. They added another on J.T. Realmuto's RBI single.
Segura hits, then exits
Jean Segura rocketed a low line drive that just cleared the left-field wall in the top of the first for his second homer of the season. He later added singles up the middle and down the right-field line and is batting .391 in 73 plate appearances.
He was removed after his fourth at-bat as part of a double-switch, a questionable move given how hot he’s been at the plate. The fact that he returned two games ago from a quad strain that cost him two weeks could have something to do with it.
Another solid start for Velasquez
This was the second straight solid start by Velasquez, who has allowed two runs in 11⅓ innings over his last two. Prior to the game, Girardi said Velasquez has earned the right to start and that won’t change after this one. The rotation spot that belonged to Moore at the beginning of the season has been assumed by Velasquez, at least for now.
Velasquez pounded the Braves' right-handed hitters up and in and had success, generating grounders foul and jam-job popups.
The Phillies are 5-3 this season against the Braves and go for the series win on Sunday Night Baseball as Aaron Nola (3-1, 2.89) opposes Huascar Ynoa (3-1, 2.36).
The status for that game of Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. is up in the air. He left Saturday night in extreme pain after being hit on the left pinky by a 98 mph fastball from Sam Coonrod. X-rays were negative and he is day-to-day.