Braves fall seven outs shy of sweeping Phillies, suffer first loss of season

Chris Sale leaves the game in the sixth inning Sunday against the Phillies.

Credit: Derik Hamilton

Credit: Derik Hamilton

Chris Sale leaves the game in the sixth inning Sunday against the Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA – At first, it appeared Aaron Bummer had rolled an inning-ending double play to escape trouble and preserve the one-run lead he inherited. But the Phillies challenged it, and Johan Rojas was ruled safe at first base after barely beating the throw to Matt Olson, who stretched out to catch it.

Now, there were two outs in the seventh inning, with a runner on first.

The Phillies took that small opening and made the Braves pay.

Bummer allowed four consecutive two-out singles. The second of them scored a run, and the third plated two runs.

The Phillies grabbed a two-run lead and held it for good.

The Braves lost to the Phillies, 5-4, on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves (2-1) were seven outs away from sweeping the Phillies.

Had they gotten those outs, they would’ve swept a season-opening series for the first time since 2015, when they won all three games versus Miami. But this weekend’s result is far better than in 2019 and 2021, when the Braves were swept by the Phillies to open those years.

Still, Atlanta won the series with two dominant wins over the Phillies on Friday and Saturday. The Braves will now head to Chicago, where they’ll play the White Sox in three games. (The forecast doesn’t look good for that series.)

“We had an opportunity today to go for a sweep,” Austin Riley said. “Didn’t capitalize on it, but I think any time you can start the season with a series win against a really good team, you like that, for sure.”

With two outs in the seventh, Bummer couldn’t put away hitters. He had Trea Turner at 0-2 before Turner singled to right field to score one run. Alec Bohm had a full count when he hit a single off Bummer to bring in two more.

This will happen. No one is perfect. It’s a long season.

And for what it’s worth, the Braves almost – almost – mounted one of their signature comebacks. They nearly pried victory out of Philadelphia’s hands.

In the eighth inning, Jarred Kelenic began a rally with his pinch-hit double. He later scored to on Ozzie Albies’ single to trim the deficit to a run. It looked as if the Braves might tie the game, but Matt Olson – who is a sensational hitter at this ballpark – eventually flied out to right field to end the inning.

Sunday began in the same way as Saturday: Ronald Acuña Jr. reached base to start the game and Albies launched a two-run shot to give the Braves a lead before the Phillies even recorded an out.

Albies gave some cushion to Chris Sale, who made his much-anticipated debut after the club acquired him in December. Sale, the lanky lefty, showed the competitive spirit for which he’s known.

Sale, who didn’t complete more than 3 2/3 innings in a spring game, went 5 1/3 frames on Sunday. He allowed two runs on five hits, including serving up a homer to the first batter he faced (Kyle Schwarber). He struck out seven batters and walked two. Sale ran into trouble a couple times, but never spiraled out of control.

In the second inning, he allowed the first two batters to reach, then retired the next three in order.

Sale loaded the bases to begin the fifth inning. Pitching with a two-run lead, it appeared this might be the moment he unraveled. But as you’ve heard about him, he’s a gamer. He loves the tough moments and the highest stakes. He rolled a double play and a run scored, but he retired the next batter to preserve the lead.

“It’s a dogfight,” Sale said. “That’s what we sign up for. It’s never gonna be pretty. If you think you’re gonna go out there and just cruise through and be perfect all the time, it’s gonna be a tough road.”

Added catcher Chadwick Tromp on Sale’s ability to fight through a jam: “It’s a lot of experience, right?” catcher Chadwick Tromp said. “The guy’s gonna be a Hall of Famer. I think we’re very fortunate to have him, just understanding his mind (and) how it works.”

Ranger Suarez started for the Phillies, who had trouble keeping the Braves from crossing the plate this weekend. Suarez surrendered three runs over five innings.

Unlike the previous two days, the Braves on Sunday didn’t unload on Philadelphia’s bullpen – a unit considered to be one of the sport’s best. The Braves found themselves in a close game, and the Phillies got to Bummer.

But the Braves will fly to Chicago having won this series, and they’ll take that.

”This was a tough series,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s a good series to win, to start off on, and it’s on to Chicago and try and win another one.”