As bad as things have been for the Braves lately, they could at least say they’re still in first place. Or on the road. Or matching up against an unfamiliar American League team. Or facing an unfamiliar starting pitcher.
This time it’s none of the above.
A 10-5 loss to the Phillies Wednesday just completed a series sweep to a team that was in last place in the NL East, at least when this series started on Monday night. Now the Phillies are ahead of the Mets in the standings, and the Braves are staring up at the Washington Nationals, a team they’ll face for the next four days at Nationals Park.
The last time the Braves played the Nationals, they were just warming up to a 17-9 April. They had won five of six from the Nationals in a matter of 10 days. Now the Braves are in full-out scuffle. They’re 19-26 for the past six weeks. They’ve lost six of their past eight and 14 of their past 22.
Even a lineup-shakeup to insert Tommy La Stella in the leadoff spot Wednesday and some actual offense – after scoring three runs in the first 22 innings of this series - couldn’t turn the tide against the Phillies.
The Braves broke out with a four-run first inning and it wasn’t nearly enough for Aaron Harang, given the way he pitched on Wednesday. Harang gave up 13 hits, and a career-high nine runs for the second time this year.
Amazingly, Harang was one pitch away from preventing his last five runs – all of which came with two outs in the second inning – but he couldn’t put the Phillies away.
Harang was charged with a pair of bases-loaded walks on the day. He needed 30 pitches in each of the first two innings, and if not for a weary bullpen, likely wouldn’t have made it the five innings he worked. He threw 115 pitches on the day.
Harang gave up three hits to Ryan Howard, two of which drove in runs, to give him six RBIs total (along with two home runs) in this three game series against the Braves.
Evan Gattis returned to the Braves lineup after a rest day and picked up right where he left off. He hit a two-run home run on his first swing to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Gattis sent a 1-0 slider from Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, into the left center field seats to give Harang a clean slate 2-2.
Ryan Doumit came off the bench to supply three hits, three RBIs and his second home run of the year. His first hit, a two-run single, gave Harang a 4-2 lead in the first inning, but it disappeared shortly thereafter.
Harang was a strike away from getting out of both the first and second innings, largely unscathed. He would have been down only 1-0 in the first inning, if he’d retired Marlon Byrd with two outs and two strikes on him with the bases loaded. Instead he walked him and was doing well to get out of the inning down 2-0.
Harang had two outs and two strikes on Wil Nieves in the second inning, and gave up a double, that set off a chain reaction of six straight hits. John Mayberry capped it off with a two-run single to put the Phillies up 9-5. It was the most runs Harang had allowed since a 9-3 loss in Miami on April 30, where he was suspected the Marlins were stealing signs.
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