Phillies

Phillies-Braves observations: Henderson Alvarez solid, but bullpen bends in loss

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies' bullpen could not hold a late lead Saturday night. The result was a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

The Phils have lost three in a row.
 
The Phillies led 2-0 through five innings and Henderson Alvarez, signed out of the Independent Atlantic League a month ago, was in line for his first big-league win in exactly three years when the Braves struck for a solo homer off reliever Kevin Siegrist in the sixth and three runs against Luis Garcia in the eighth.
 
Pinch-hitter Johan Camargo had the big hit, a two-run pinch-hit double for the Braves with two outs in the eighth, breaking a 2-2 tie.
 
Rhys Hoskins doubled home Nick Williams with the Phillies' first run with two outs in the first inning. Maikel Franco scored the Phils' second run on a passed ball in the fifth inning.
 
Both starters were good. Julio Teheran pitched seven innings of two-run ball for Atlanta. Only one of the runs he gave up was earned. Alvarez pitched five shutout innings.
 
• The Phillies signed Alvarez for organizational depth, to help them get through the season with other pitchers having gone down with injury. He's looking at the opportunity as a chance to show teams he can still pitch in the majors after missing 2016 and much of 2017 recovering from a shoulder injury. It's difficult to envision the Phillies keeping the 27-year-old right-hander on the 40-man roster all winter, but signing Alvarez to a minor-league deal for 2017 with an invite to big-league camp would make sense. He could provide depth at Triple A and if he pitched well a chance in the majors would surely arise. However, if the Phillies removed Alvarez from the 40-man roster after the season, there's no guarantee he would re-sign with the club.
 
• It's unclear if Alvarez will get another start over the final week of the season. The Phillies initially planned to use him as a sixth starter for the remainder of the month, but manager Pete Mackanin suggested he could be used out of the bullpen the rest of the way. More will be known on that in a few days.
 
• Noted Braves killer Odubel Herrera remained hitless in the series. He grounded to second on the first pitch he saw with two outs and the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh. The Phillies had Braves starter Teheran on the ropes and manager Brian Snitker visited the mound as Herrera came up. Teheran wanted to stay in the game and he quickly dispatched Herrera.

• Hoskins' RBI in the first inning was his 46th in 43 games. Hoskins has 21 RBIs in September and Nick Williams has 22. They are the first pair of Phillies rookies to collect 20 or more RBIs in the same calendar month since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920.
 
• Hoskins is just 5 for his last 35.
 
• Garcia took the loss. He allowed three runs. He had not allowed an earned run in his previous 12 1/3 innings.

• Pinch-runner Micah Johnson scored the tying run for the Braves in the eighth inning on a hit to right by Dansby Swanson. Johnson set up the run with a key stolen base that did not even draw a throw from catcher Cameron Rupp.
 
• Lefty reliever Adam Morgan, pitching in his hometown, delivered a scoreless seventh inning to protect a 2-1 lead. He has given up just two runs over 23 innings since Aug. 2. Nearly waived off the 40-man roster at the end of spring training, Morgan has pitched himself firmly into the team's bullpen plans for next season. His velocity is better — up to 97 mph — and his slider is much improved. He is pitching with confidence.
 
• J.P. Crawford started at second base for the fourth time. Mackanin said he would start at shortstop Sunday. That will be his fourth time starting at shortstop. Crawford has started 16 of the team's 18 games since arriving from Triple A on Sept 5. Clearly, team officials are trying to gauge his readiness for a spot on the opening day roster. The 22-year-old infielder does not look overmatched. He has played well defensively and has a .385 on-base percentage. If Crawford opens the 2018 season with the Phillies, the question is where: The Phillies are likely to dangle shortstop Freddy Galvis as a trade possibility. If Galvis were moved, Crawford would play his natural shortstop. Third base remains a possibility if the team moves Franco. There have been indications that the Phillies aren't ready to give up on Franco, but they certainly wouldn't say no to the right deal. Second base is more of a long shot for Crawford as Scott Kingery appears to be the man of the future at that position. He could arrive in May. Regardless of what happens early next season, Crawford appears to be the shortstop of the future.
 
• Phillie killer Freddie Freeman was not in the lineup. In fact, he was told to stay home because he has a stomach bug and the Braves didn't want it sweeping through their clubhouse. No word on his availability for Sunday.
 
• For the second time in three games, it will be an all-rookie matchup in the series finale in Sunday afternoon. Nick Pivetta (6-10, 6.57) will pitch for the Phillies against Braves lefty Luiz Gohara (1-2. 6.06).