It was one thing for the Nationals to dominate the Braves during the previous couple of seasons. The Nationals were really good.
It’s quite another for the Phillies to do to the Braves what they’ve done this season. The Phillies are not good. They are bad.
As in, worst-record-in-the-majors bad.
But for the 11th time in 13 games between the teams, the Phillies beat the Braves Wednesday night, building a three-run lead through five innings and hanging on for a 3-2 win to complete a two-game sweep at SunTrust Park.
Danny Santana’s two-run, two-out single in the seventh cut the lead to 3-2 and raised the Braves’ majors-leading pinch-hit RBI total to 35, but that was their only hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position against Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff (3-7).
“It’s just kind of the way we’ve been against these (Phillies),” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves failed to score after getting a leadoff double from Nick Markakis in the second inning of a then-scoreless game. “Everybody pitches like they’re Bob Gibson against us, regardless of their history. I don’t know. It’s just one of them things. You can’t explain it. You can’t point to any one thing.
“The center fielder (Odubel Herrera) is killing us. You’ve got guys who’ve been struggling, and they come in and they’re efficient with their pitches and go deep into games and we just can’t do anything with them. Not for lack of trying or not knowing or anything. It’s just the baseball quirk or something.”
Braves rookie Sean Newcomb (1-7) pitched well enough to win plenty of nights, allowing five hits and three runs (two earned) with just one walk and six strikeouts. The left-hander walked seven in 4 2/3 innings last week against the Dodgers and issued 15 walks in 15 2/3 innings over his past five starts before Wednesday.
“Coming off his last outing, you can tell they went to work and he did a good job,” Snitker said.
But that and Santana’s hit were the bright spots in another disappointing night against the last-place Phillies, who are 11-2 against the Braves and 31-67 against everyone else.
That means 26 percent of the Phillies’ wins have come against the Braves. The last team to finish a season with 20 percent or more of its wins against one team was the 2008 Nationals, who had 59 wins including 12 against … the Braves.
Wednesday marked the ninth time in 11 losses against the Phillies that the Braves have scored three or fewer runs.
“They have a number of starters that have 5-something ERAs, apparently they save their best (stuff) against us,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “I don’t know. They get up t there and they’ve got good velocity, good command, they can sink it, cut it. All of them seem to have good curveballs, little sliders, change-ups. Apparently they somewhat save it for us.”
Herrera extended his hitting streak to 12 games and his hitting streak against the Braves to 16 games with a first-inning triple, then tripled again with a runner on first in the third inning. Herrera got an RBI and came around to score on the play himself when rookie second baseman Ozzie Albies bounced a throw past third baseman Brandon Phillips.
Herrera has hit .422 (27-for-64) with 15 extra-base hits including five homers and 15 RBIs in his 16-game streak against the Braves dating to September.
The Braves have lost 16 of 22 games after a three-game sweep against Arizona after the All-Star break improved their record to a season-best 45-45 on July 16. They are a season-high 10 games under .500 (51-61).
Their 6-16 slide includes six straight losses to the Phillies – a four-game sweep at Philadelphia at the end of July and this short series at SunTrust. The Phillies have swept the Braves in three of their four series this season and the teams split the other series, a four-gamer at SunTrust in early June.
Eickhoff took a shutout to the seventh inning and improved to 3-0 in his past seven starts after losing his first seven decisions. The Braves had a chance to score first after Markakis’ second-inning leadoff double, but Eickhoff struck out Flowers before getting Matt Adams to ground out and Albies to fly out as the Braves failed even to advance the runner.
“The one inning Markakis hit the leadoff double, I didn’t do anything to get him over,” Flowers said. “Those are the kind of things you’ve got to cash in, especially against teams that somewhat have your number or are more difficult for your guys to create big innings (against) or anything like that.”
They didn’t get another runner to second base until the sixth, and then with an asterisk: Freddie Freeman hit a two-out single and Markakis followed with a double, but Freeman was caught in a rundown between third and home after third-base coach Ron Washington initially waved Freeman home before putting up the stop sign.
The Braves finally got to Eickhoff in the seventh inning after a leadoff single from Flowers. Albies hit a one-out fly ball misplayed into a double by right fielder Nick Williams. After Dansby Swanson lined out to third base, Santana singled to right field to drive in two runs and end Eickhoff’s night.