Early errors Saturday would be too much for the Atlanta Braves (95-66) to recover from in the third game of their series against the Philadelphia Phillies (73-88), as a late ninth inning rally fell short in the 5-4 loss.
Friday night, Braves RHP Kris Medlen’s eight shutout innings accompanied by third baseman Chris Johnson’s eighth inning solo homer led Atlanta to a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. In last night’s contest, pitching for Atlanta was LHP Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA), who was attempting to end a five-start winless streak.
“I’ve been kinda struggling beforehand, but tonight I planned on ending the bad luck,” Minor said. “A win tonight would have been good, but we still have another chance tomorrow.”
The evening would immediately begin on a sour note for Minor as the Phillies began their scoring at the top of the first inning.
Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp earned his first career RBI off Minor to start the game in only his tenth career at bat, driving in outfielder Cesar Hernandez and shortstop Jimmy Rollins for the early lead.
Hernandez ended the night with a new career high, connecting on four hits in five at bats, two of them going for runs.
Atlanta answered back quickly in the bottom half of the first inning when a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly ball to center field allowed Jason Heyward to score.
Phillies starter RHP Ethan Martin (2-5, 6.32 ERA) only lasted three innings before Manager Ryne Sandberg made his first call to the bullpen, allowing one run on four hits.
The early scoring by both teams led to a slow midpoint during the contest, leaving the 38,171 attendees at Turner Field to worry about completing the wave consecutively within about a ten minute period other than wondering when their home team was going to get on the board again.
At the top of the seventh, the crowd awoke slightly, but for all the wrong reasons.
A line drive single to rookie outfielder Evan Gattis off Jimmy Rollins became costly when Gattis dropped the ball, allowing Hernandez to score.
Heading to the bottom of the ninth, Philadelphia was only three outs away from an easy victory, up 5-1.
With two men on base and the game being a strike away from being over, Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton smacked a homer run down center field on a 2-2 pitch; bringing the Braves back to within one, 5-4.
“I saw the ball pretty well tonight and got a pretty good pitch to hit,” Upton said about his 27th home run of the season. “We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the ball game and that’s all we can ask for.”
Momentum had quickly shifted in Atlanta’s direction once Gattis was walked, Freeman singled and Chris Johnson was now at bat with game-winning runs on base.
With the crowd giving a standing ovation, Johnson hit a ground ball to Phillies shortstop Rollins.
A race between Rollins’ throw to first base and Johnson would ensue. Johnson would be called out and the game came to an end.
“These guys battle and it doesn’t surprise me, we had the right guy at the plate too,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Anything could have happened.”
The win for the evening went to the Phillies’ Luis Garcia (1-1), as Miner took his ninth loss of the season.
With Atlanta’s loss and an earlier victory in the day by the St. Louis Cardinals over the Chicago Cubs, the Braves now need a win and a Cardinals loss Sunday to secure home-field advantage.
Sunday’s probable pictures in the season finale will see Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (13-8, 3.09 ERA) against Zach Miner (0-1, 3.08 ERA).