Bryse Wilson, 21, made his second career start in a rowdy Philadelphia environment. He survived just 3-1/3 innings, chased by a just-fair Maikel Franco homer that provided the Phillies’ first lead.
But he learned a reality the Braves as a whole will grow accustomed to: Quieting the Phillies’ lineup is a difficult chore.
“I made a couple mistakes, and they took advantage of them,” Wilson said. “You can (try to be) too perfect. I think that’s one of the reasons I walked three guys tonight. I just need to go out there and have confidence and get outs.”
The righty was effectively wild for the first three innings. Rhys Hoskins doubled and scored on J.T. Realmuto’s single in the second – otherwise, Wilson did what he could against a dangerous group that broke through in the fourth.
Odubel Herrera drew a one-out walk and scored on Cesar Hernandez’s triple. Once Franco gave the Phillies a lead, Braves manager Brian Snitker dipped into his haphazard bullpen, ending Wilson’s day at 73 pitches.
“He didn’t seem quite as aggressive throwing pitches,” catcher Tyler Flowers said of Wilson. “I’m not going to say the word ‘scared,’ because I know he’s not scared at all. Maybe he was trying to be a little too fine rather than trusting his stuff. We’ll figure it out after that. … Just not super crisp with any of the pitches.”
The outing included expected ups and downs from the youngster. The worst downside was his early exit, requiring the Braves’ relief corps to work overtime to get through the night - an additional challenge in itself given the Braves are short-handed pitching-wise.
“We’re going to have to keep fighting through it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We’re probably going to have to go through it again before these six months are over. Until we get those three guys back and it solidifies things, we’re going to have to keep fighting.”
The Phillies’ offensive barrage overshadows the Braves’ own solid work at the plate (if you’re looking for a bright side). Freddie Freeman had a four-hit, two-RBI afternoon. Dansby Swanson homered and looks much more comfortable at the plate. Charlie Culberson pulled the Braves within two with a ninth-inning shot of his own.
Yet none of that matters when allowing 18 runs through two games. The Braves are in weather-the-storm mode, staying afloat until their some of their rehabbing pitchers return. It’s far too early to make definitive statements, but the bullpen hasn’t looked like a strength. That’s been magnified by the Phillies’ unrelenting bats.
“It’s a tough lineup for sure,” Flowers said. “They all have areas we can go to to get outs. You just can’t consistently make mistakes or miss spots in the zone. We did that a little too often tonight.”
It was Wes Parsons, who made the team after allowing no runs in 10 spring appearances, who fell victim to Realmuto’s shot. Jonny Venters and Jesse Biddle temporarily stopped the bleeding, with Biddle producing the first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the sixth.
As for the seventh: Bryce Harper harpooned his first homer – and first hit as a Phillie – into the right-field seats. The Philadelphia crowd of over 44,000 erupted, cuing a standing ovation before Harper accepted their curtain call. He emphatically yelled and encouraged the spectators’ cheers.
That’s the new life for these Braves. To repeat as East champs, they must slow the monster assembled in South Philly. They have the talent and rich prospect depth, but a 2019 playoff berth will require more than the Nationals’ stumbling and some good fortune this time. It’ll take outdoing the rejuvenated East, fronted by these Phillies.
And so far, the Braves are 0-2.