The Braves’ latest dazzling comeback try was stopped short at home plate.
Trailing 5-3 with two runners on and two out in the ninth, Freddie Freeman came up with a clutch hit against new Phillies reliever Brandon Workman. Freeman’s knock to left scored one run and had Dansby Swanson darting for home, where he was thrown out just in time by relay man Didi Gregorius.
The play went to review, checking if Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp was blocking the plate. The umpires ruled Swanson out, and so the Braves lost 5-4 to the Phillies on Sunday night at Truist Park.
“He was sitting there pretty good, but they’re not calling that anymore,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Knapp blocking home plate. “They just need to take that off the books and start blowing up catchers again.
“He was clearly in front of the plate before he had the ball. He didn’t get the ball and then take the plate away. He was waiting in front of the plate as the rule says. The ball didn’t take him there. He was already there. It’s not called anymore, but I thought I’d take a crack at it (and ask for the review).”
When Swanson was tagged out, the Phillies avoided what would’ve been a devastating sweep. The Braves nonetheless won the series and pushed the Phillies (10-14) an additional game back in the National League East, which the Braves lead with a 16-12 record.
Snitker’s frustration began boiling earlier in the evening, when starter Josh Tomlin allowed four runs (three homers) in three innings, putting the Braves in a four-run hole for the second consecutive night. Tomlin was followed by Touki Toussaint, whose inability to throw strikes prompted Snitker to pull him in the middle of an at-bat.
It was an anger-inducing night for the Braves, who struck out 10 times and left 19 men on base against Phillies starter Zach Eflin and three relievers. They went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Sunday also continued the season’s recurring theme. The Braves either have an offensive explosion or flashy comeback to overcome starting pitching, or they lose because of the starting pitching. The rotation outside Max Fried remains the glaring issue preventing the Braves from looking like a pennant-worthy club.
Notes from Sunday:
- Tomlin has been homer-prone throughout his career because he attacks the strike zone, but he didn’t give up a long ball across his first 15-1/3 innings (nine games) this season. That changed emphatically in his second start.
The Phillies homered three times off Tomlin, including twice in the third. The right-hander covered only those three innings, passing the baton to Toussaint in the fourth.
- Toussaint, the latest Braves starter to be at least temporarily dismissed from the rotation, continued his struggles throwing strikes. He walked two, allowed two hits and made an error in 1-1/3 innings. He only threw 18 strikes on 38 pitches.
Snitker saw enough during Knapp’s at-bat in the fifth. The Braves had cut the deficit to 5-3, but the Phillies had two runners on with only one out. Toussaint threw two balls to Knapp and Snitker removed him from the game. He ended his night with six consecutive balls, walking Alec Bohm in his final completed at-bat.
Knapp hit into a force out against Tyler Matzek, who walked Roman Quinn before escaping the inning with an Andrew McCutchen flyout.
“He got behind and we needed to give ourselves a chance to put the inning down,” Snitker said of lifting Toussaint during an at-bat. “It didn’t look like it was going real good. It’s not something you do very often but it was one of those situations where Matzek still had some count to work with, then we have a chance to get out of the inning.”
- Swanson continued his offensive surge with a career-high three doubles in his first three at-bats. He’s on a nine-game hitting streak, making him the only player to have multiple hitting streaks of nine or more games this season.
- Third baseman Austin Riley extended his hitting streak to five games with a single and double. He’s hit .389/.450/.611 during that stretch, which has been a needed spurt after Riley struggled mightily across the first 23 games.
- Outside Riley, the middle-to-bottom of the Braves’ lineup provided little. Matt Adams, Adam Duvall, Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte combined to go 0-for-13 with two walks and seven strikeouts. They left nine men on base.
The top four – Swanson, Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud and Marcell Ozuna – provided seven of the Braves’ nine hits. Riley earned the other two. The Braves are eagerly awaiting Ronald Acuna’s, Ozzie Albies’ and Nick Markakis’ returns, which will greatly lengthen the lineup.
- The relievers who followed Toussaint kept the Braves within striking distance. Matzek, Chris Martin, Will Smith and Luke Jackson combined to allow two hits over 4-1/3 scoreless innings. Matzek issued the only walk in the group.
- The Braves are off Monday before opening a two-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday. The Braves haven’t announced a starter, but it will likely be top pitching prospect Ian Anderson, who’d make his MLB debut against a depleted Yankees lineup.
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