The Phillies hit home runs, had some clutch hits and even scored a run on a safety squeeze Tuesday night. They had a chance to leapfrog the Atlanta Braves in the National League East standings.
Then the eighth inning happened. And the bullpen happened. And the Phillies ended up with a 9-5 loss to the Braves in the opener of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
"I thought we did a good job fighting back and coming back and doing some little things well," manager Joe Girardi said. "And then (Jose) Alvarado gets through the seventh and we can't get through the eighth. It's frustrating."
Even with the ballpark open to full capacity, only 13,125 were in attendance.
Surely, the heavy rainstorm that hit the area in the hours before the game had something to do with the low turnout. The start of the game was delayed by 45 minutes.
And, surely, the region's sports fans are caught up in the Sixers' playoff run.
But even after taking a series from the Washington Nationals over the weekend, this Phillies team has done little to excite its fan base. The team has given its doubters plenty of fuel with its maddening inconsistency.
The loss dropped the Phillies to 28-31. They are four games behind the division-leading Mets (29-24). The Braves (29-29) are just 2½ games behind the Mets.
Starter Aaron Nola lasted just five innings for the Phillies and left trailing by a run. His mates got him off the hook when they rallied for two runs to take the lead in the sixth. J.T. Realmuto homered to tie the game and pinch-hitter Brad Miller put them ahead with a base hit.
Alvarado protected the lead in the seventh, but Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod combined to give up five runs in the eighth as the Braves took control.
Brogdon gave up a game-tying homer to Austin Riley and two singles that turned into runs. Coonrod committed a costly throwing error that ultimately led to three runs. It was an all-around disastrous inning.
In addition to Realmuto, the Phils got a solo homer from Bryce Harper, a safety squeeze from Nola, an RBI double and three walks from Jean Segura, two hits and two runs from Alec Bohm and a bunt base hit and a run from Luke Williams in his big-league debut.
But it wasn't enough because the Phils went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men. They had a chance to build on their lead with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh but came up empty.
"We had a chance to tack on in the seventh and we weren't able to do it and that might have changed the complexion of the game, too," Girardi said.
Nola, working on six days' rest, two more than usual, was not particularly sharp, but that would probably define his season, save for a couple of starts.
Nola gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks over his five innings. He struck out seven. Command has been a season-long issue for Nola and it was again in this one. He threw 89 pitches.
Extra-base hits hurt Nola. He extended the first inning with a two-out walk then allowed an RBI double to right-center to Riley as the Braves took a 1-0 lead.
Nola gave up a mammoth homer (460 feet) into the second deck in left to Ronald Acuña Jr. in the third inning and another homer to William Contreras with two outs in the fourth. Both homers came on elevated fastballs.
"Obviously, they're familiar with Nola because they see him so much," Girardi said. "But at times he wasn't able to put people away and that hurt him. Everything starts with command of his fastball and he made some mistakes with it."
Acuña doubled and scored the Braves' fourth run on a hit by Freddie Freeman in the fifth.
Acuña gives a lot of pitchers fits and Nola is one of them. The slugging Atlanta leadoff man is 11 for 29 (.379) with three doubles and three homers against Nola in his career.
Over his last six starts, Nola's ERA has gone from 2.89 to 4.06.
The right-hander looked dejected after this one.
"I felt fine," he said. "I just missed some spots.
"Another tough outing for me. Tough game."