Matt Kemp and Matt Adams got consecutive one-out singles in the ninth inning against reliever Hector Neris before sidearmer Pat Neshek entered and struck out Adonis Garcia and got Kurt Suzuki on a first-pitch pop-up to end the game.
Garcia (2-4) gave up eight hits, three runs and no walks with four strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings, after allowing only one unearned run and five hits in seven innings of a 2-1 loss at Anaheim in his last start.
“This is probably the best I’ve seen him pitch, the last couple of times out,” said Braves first baseman Matt Adams, a St. Louis Cardinals teammate of Garcia’s from 2012 through 2016. “He just seems like he’s in control out there and he’s trusting his stuff. He’s letting his pitches move the way they’re supposed to move and he’s keeping the hitters off balance.”
The Braves have lost nine of 13 and four in a row at SunTrust Park, where they need to win the next two to salvage a split of the series. They’ve dropped 14 of 20 home games since a four-game sweep of the Padres to open SunTrust Park.
It was the fourth consecutive win for Philadelphia, which took two of three against the Giants before coming to Atlanta. The Phillies lost five in a row and 15 of 18 before the winning streak, but now they’re only three games behind the Braves.
Garcia retired the first 11 batters before Howie Kendrick’s game-tying homer on a 1-2 slider over the middle with two out in the fourth inning.
“For the most part I was able to keep the ball down on all my pitches. “That’s a terrible pitch (to Kendrick). He’s a good hitter, I’m not trying to take anything away from him. But I didn’t execute my pitch right there.”
The left-hander allowed just three hits through five innings before the Phillies opened the sixth with three hits — doubles from Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera and a Kendrick single — before a run-scoring balk.
“I think he hung one breaking ball to Kendrick,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Adonis makes a great play (to start an inning-ending double play in the sixth) to save a run, but (Garcia) was really good again.”
Garcia is 2-3 despite a 2.75 ERA in his past nine starts. This was only the third time he allowed more than two earned runs during that stretch.
He has a 1.23 ERA in his past four starts but only one win to show for it. The Braves have scored two or fewer runs while he’s been in the game in seven of his 11 starts this season including each of his past four.
“He’s just been on the attack, in the zone,” Snitker said.
Garcia has pitched at least seven innings in three of his past four starts and 6 2/3 innings in the other during that period. The Braves scored a total of six runs while he was in those four games including one run in each of the past two.
In his Wednesday start Anaheim, he balked a runner to third base in the fifth inning with the Braves ahead 1-0, and Snitker was ejected for arguing after the call. Garcia got out of that two-out situation by inducing a ground out.
But when he balked in the sixth inning Tuesday it was a particularly bad situation for it to happen — with none out and runners on the corners. Herrera scored on the balk to push the Phillies' lead to 3-1. Hernandez and Herrera had started the inning with doubles to give the Phillies their first lead in the game.
Those two were the first batters in the Phillies order and were facing Garcia for the third time in the sixth inning. That’s been a soft spot for Garcia – third time through an order. Even when he’s pitching superbly, as he was Tuesday.
In his previous start against the Angels, Garcia also recorded 11 outs in the first 11 batters, though he used a couple of double-play grounders to erase runners during that span.
“He’s been able to wipe out the walks with double-play balls on this little run he’s got going,” Snitker said. “It’s been really good. He’s been nails. He gets in the eighth inning, that’s outstanding.”
But not enough on a night when the Braves mustered only one run.