The difference between the Braves and Phillies on Tuesday night fell out of Ronald Acuna’s glove.
The Phillies defeated the Braves 6-5 after relinquishing a four-run lead they immediately recouped through a bizarre sequence during the bottom of the fourth.
Phillies outfielder Scott Kingery hit a ball to the deepest section of Citizens Bank Park. Acuna leaped over the center-field wall, snatching the would-be homer before it landed in the trees and ivy gracing the batter’s eye portion of the outfield.
Acuna returned to the ground with the ball – until it was released as he swung his arm. The 21-year-old reacted slowly, calling to the umpire before picking up the ball. He thought he’d held it long enough to register the out. Meanwhile, Kingery never stopped running.
Kingery flew around the bases as Acuna recovered the ball. Cut-off man Ozzie Albies fired to home plate but the throw was late. Kingery had collected an inside-the-park home run, one that broke a 4-4 tie.
“I thought he was going to catch it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “And he did, it just didn’t stay in. … You bring something like that down, you’ve got to bring it down. He caught it, just couldn’t hold onto it.”
It was only the Braves’ fourth loss in their last 23 games. But with Washington’s loss in Minnesota, the magic number dropped to nine anyway. The Braves’ magic number is trimmed by one for each win or Nationals loss.
Max Fried went awry in the first inning, allowing three home runs, a double and a walk in a 24-pitch frame that put the Braves in a 4-0 hole. Fried completed five innings, permitting just one other run (Kingery’s inside-the-park homer).
“They came out swinging,” Fried said. “They came out real aggressive. I threw a couple pitches that spun in there and they got some good contact in the first. Felt like I was able to settle down a little bit after.”
Fried stressed the need to be sharper early, which he usually has been since returning from the injured list due to a blister. He left pitches over the plate that J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper homered.
The Braves had won each of Fried’s last nine starts. Tuesday was a rare poor outing for the southpaw, who owned a 3.02 ERA across that winning stretch (since July 15). Snitker credited Fried for calming down after the first inning and keeping the Braves within striking distance, an encouraging development for the 25-year-old still experiencing his first full season as a starter.
“That’s a good sign,” Snitker said. “It shows maturity that he didn’t cave in. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He just kept pitching, righting the ship. It was three pitches that weren’t located or he didn’t get the two breaking balls. And they didn’t miss them. He regrouped, kept us in the game and gave us a chance to come back.”
The Braves gave themselves a shot with a four-run third that tied the game. They did so with four singles, two walks, a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice that chased Jason Vargas after only three frames. Johan Camargo would later homer to pull the Braves within 6-5.
Veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel starts for the Braves on Wednesday, opposing Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin. While the Braves are close to wrapping up the division, the Phillies are still fighting for a wild-card spot.