he floundering Phillies reached their low point of the season in an embarrassing 12-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.
The Phillies’ 20th loss in the last 32 games dropped them into third place in the NL East for the first time this season.
Just five weeks ago, the Phils were in first place in the division, 3½ games up on the second-place Braves and 10 up on the third-place Washington Nationals.
The Braves are 22-9 since the start of June and the Nationals are 26-10 in their last 36 games. Both teams have now passed the Phillies, who are 45-42.
The Phils opened this series in Atlanta with a nice 2-0 victory behind Aaron Nola. But starting pitching abandoned them the next two nights and they lost two of three in the series and are now 6½ games out of first place.
A galling way to lose
A win would have kept the Phils in second place and allowed them to pick up a game on the Braves in the series.
Things actually looked good — briefly — for the Phils. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead on All-Star right-hander Mike Soroka in the first inning.
The lead did not last long as the Braves’ potent offense mugged starter Zach Eflin for seven runs in three innings.
Soroka, who allowed six singles in the first inning, did not allow another run the remainder of his 4⅔ innings. He exited at 100 pitches. He is just 21 and the Braves are being careful with him.
Killer long balls
The Phillies gave up five homers.
Eflin allowed a solo homer to Dansby Swanson in the first inning and a three-run shot to Ozzie Albies in the third. Albies’ homer came with two outs after Eflin pitched around Brian McCann in a four-pitch walk. Albies turned on a 1-1 fastball and made Eflin pay.
Home runs remain a huge problem for this pitching staff. Reliever Edgar Garcia gave up back-to-back homers in the fourth inning. The Braves made it five homers when Swanson went deep again in the ninth.
On Wednesday night, the Phils gave up three homers.
Phillies pitching has allowed 150 homers, the most in the National League, in 87 games. Only Baltimore and Seattle had given up more homers in the majors entering Thursday night and those two teams are among the worst clubs in baseball.
The Phils are well on their way to blowing past the team record for homers allowed — 221 in 2017.
The Phils had 12 hits in the game, but just two for extra bases.
Meanwhile, 10 of the Braves’ 12 hits were for extra bases and five landed over the wall.
One day after getting tagged for four hits and three runs in one-third of an inning, reliever Juan Nicasio was placed on the injured list with a groin strain. Reliever Austin Davis rode the Lehigh Valley shuttle back to the big leagues.
The Phillies play their final three games before the All-Star break on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in New York against the Mets.
The Mets are going worse than the Phillies at 39-48, but they have a chance to give the Phils problems in the series as they will send their three best arms, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler to the mound. Vince Velasquez, Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola will pitch for the Phils.
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