The playoffs have eluded the Philadelphia Phillies since a 102-win season in 2011.
If the Phillies continue to play as they did on Thursday, the drought will soon be snapped.
Philadelphia was stellar in all phases while defeating the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves 1-0 on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series. The four-game series continues in Philadelphia on Friday.
Phillies outfielder Matt Vierling, who had five hits and the walk-off RBI single on Wednesday against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, came back with a double and a sacrifice fly against the Braves on Thursday.
The Phillies (82-67) remain in the third spot in the National League wild-card standings, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers (80-70).
For Philadelphia to keep winning, the bullpen must be solid. After Ranger Suarez threw six scoreless innings on Thursday, Zach Eflin tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and Jose Alvarado recorded the final four outs for his second save.
“He was great,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said of Eflin. “We talked about it before the game — pitching in high-leverage situations and multiple situations. That was it tonight. Because of the extra-inning game (Wednesday) night, we wanted to get some length from Ranger and not use too many pitchers out of that ‘pen.”
The Phillies will hand the ball to Aaron Nola (9-12, 3.38 ERA) on Friday. In Nola’s last start, also against the Braves, he allowed seven hits and four runs in seven innings during a 4-3 loss on Saturday. All four runs were produced by Ronald Acuna Jr., who had a two-run homer and a two-run double.
“I had guys on base in the third and fourth inning and Ronald hit a fastball away opposite field,” Nola said after the outing. “He put a good swing on it. Those two innings there, I hurt myself letting the leadoff guy get on. Other than that, I felt pretty good.”
Nola is 14-10 with a 3.50 ERA in 29 career starts against the Braves, 2-2 with a 4.45 ERA in four outings vs. Atlanta this year.
Phillies center fielder Brandon Marsh (left knee contusion) sat out a second consecutive game on Thursday, but he was available to pinch-hit.
Meanwhile, reigning NL Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 on Thursday. The Philadelphia slugger is 10-for-65 (.154) with 24 strikeouts in September.
The Braves (93-57) will aim to avoid a third consecutive loss when they battle the Phillies on Friday. Atlanta is 1 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets (95-56) in the NL East.
The Braves managed six hits on Thursday, three from Austin Riley. It was Riley’s 48th game this season with multiple hits.
Atlanta, which finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the series opener, played without Acuna. The right fielder was scratched shortly before the game.
“He had some back tightness right at the end of batting practice,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He was swinging in the cage a little bit and something banged on him and he wasn’t available.”
Acuna, who is listed as day-to-day, is hitting .270 with 13 homers, 46 RBIs and 28 stolen bases this season.
“We’ll treat him up and we’ll see if he’s available (Friday) and ready to go,” Snitker said. “He hadn’t been dealing with that. It was just one of those things.”
Jake Odorizzi (5-5, 4.04 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Braves. In his most recent start, against the Phillies and Nola on Saturday, Odorizzi gave up two hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings.
Odorizzi is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.
–Field Level Media