Before the late-inning developments, the story of the game was the starting pitching. Anderson required 26 pitches in the first inning but sailed from there. He logged seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits. He struck out four, walked one and generated 10 ground-ball outs. Anderson lowered his ERA to 3.26, best in the Braves’ rotation outside Tucker Davidson, who’s made only three starts.
It was an excellent rebound by Anderson, who didn’t complete five innings in either of his past two outings.
Wheeler was marvelous, holding the Braves to four hits in eight scoreless innings. He struck out 12 and didn’t issue a walk. It topped Wheeler’s April 3 effort against the Braves, when he struck out 10 over seven scoreless.
“That was awesome,” Anderson said of pitching opposite of Wheeler. “You have to respect what he could do out there. He threw the ball really well, had all his pitches going, and the fastball was tremendous. It’s fun to go back and forth with a guy like that, match up with him and match up zeroes. It’s what you enjoy most as a pitcher. You like getting the run support, but sometimes those games can be just as fun.”
Phillies 4, Braves 3 (box score)
Anderson’s and Wheeler’s work set up the eighth, when Phillies outfielder Odubel Hererra thought he hit a home run off A.J. Minter. The ball just barely missed clearing the mesh above the wall, and Herrera, who briefly celebrated the assumed homer, ended up only at second base.
But Minter couldn’t escape unscathed. Segura hit a ball that eluded Austin Riley at third base, rolling to the left-field corner and scoring Herrera to break a scoreless tie.
Just as hope was dwindling, Freddie Freeman reset the game in the ninth on the eighth pitch of an at-bat against Phillies closer Hector Neris. Freeman homered to center, with the ball just missing Herrera’s reach. It was Freeman’s 14th homer.
Dansby Swanson, the placed runner at second to begin the 10th, advanced on a groundout and scored on a passed ball. Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado couldn’t limit the damage, issuing three walks in the inning and seeing Guillermo Heredia, the recipient of the first walk, score on a two-out wild pitch to Freeman.
But Martin, who hadn’t allowed a run in nine of his 10 outings since returning from the injured list, couldn’t finish the game, costing the Braves a series win. It didn’t help that the team scored only two runs over 18 innings until the extra frame. The Braves were stifled by Phillies starters Zach Eflin and Wheeler the past two days.
“It’s been a weird year, to put it mildly,” Snitker said. “There are years like this where it seems like you’re always faced with challenges. Probably in my 45 years, I’ve had more of these than those that go smooth. You have to deal with the adversity. You have to make adjustments. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to deal with it. We need to get better. We’re capable of it.”
Thursday marked the Braves’ 60-game mark, which, of course, was the full length of the 2020 season. Those Braves finished 35-25, winning the National League East. These Braves are 29-31, which would have put them right in the bottom of last year’s expanded postseason bracket.
Fortunately for the 2021 Braves, they have 102 more games to correct their errors. It’s just another reminder of how bizarre the 2020 slate was.
“It’s wild,” Snitker said. “And I’m glad right now that we have 100 games left. I’m glad we have all that time to get this thing right.”
Freeman added: “I’m glad it’s not over. I’m glad we have 100 more to get this going.”
The Braves and Marlins begin a three-game series in Miami on Friday. Charlie Morton (5-2, 4.21 ERA) will start the opener. He last faced Miami on April 14, when he allowed five runs on seven hits in a loss.