ATLANTA — About 24 hours before the Phillies pulled off a come-from-behind win, their best of the season, Hector Neris stood in the visiting clubhouse at SunTrust Park and ended his interview by saying, "Tomorrow ... I got it tomorrow, for sure."
He proved prophetic, displaying the kind of short memory a closer needs, retiring the Braves in order in the bottom of the ninth after Cesar Hernandez's game-winning two-run single in the top half.
"You know it, papi," a beaming Neris said after picking himself and his teammates up. "I'm ready for that every day. Today I got the opportunity and I had to get it. Back to the rhythm again, back to a win. Protect the team."
The Phillies' 6-5 win knotted this important divisional series at a game apiece and did a good job of ridding the sour taste from their mouths after Friday's meltdown. In a way, it served as a reset button for the series, which will be determined Sunday afternoon.
This was a huge W in multiple ways. First off, the Phillies just don't have many victories like this in 2019. They were 1-23 when trailing after eight innings, have no walk-off wins and have watched their opponent walk it off five times. Saturday obviously was not a walk-off win but it was just as sweet. Momentum was gained by the Phillies and derailed for the Braves.
If you do believe in momentum in baseball, the Braves sure had it. They had won eight games in a row and have had the Phillies' number in Atlanta, beating them seven straight times at SunTrust Park. But Hernandez's big hit, which came after Scott Kingery singled to begin the ninth and Sean Rodriguez forced an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt, changed that.
"That was a really important win for our team. Wow. What a resilient group of guys," manager Gabe Kapler said. "There's a lot that went on in today's game that could have pushed us to not give the kind of effort that we gave. Really impressive, heartfelt win by our club, as a group, as a unit, as a team."
The Phillies could have folded after losing an early lead and losing two more starters to injuries. Jay Bruce left the game in the fourth inning with hamstring tightness and J.T. Realmuto exited an inning later after taking a foul ball to the groin.
Bruce actually first felt the hamstring tightness three or four days ago but hid it because he didn't think it was too serious. When he couldn't score from first base on Kingery's two-run double in the third inning, he knew the hamstring was the reason why and he finally admitted the injury to the Phillies' coaching staff. Bruce will not play Sunday but doesn't think the hammy will sideline him for more than a couple days.
Realmuto felt nausea after taking a shot to the jewels. There was no immediate update on his condition. He has played a ton, starting every game in June and catching 105 straight innings before exiting Saturday's game. The Phillies had planned an off-day for him in the upcoming Nationals series but may have to move that up to Sunday.
The Phillies overcame the injuries and another rough start from Aaron Nola, who lasted just 4⅓ innings and again struggled with control. In the bigger picture, Nola's funk is a concern. He has a 4.89 ERA, has allowed 13 homers in 110 fewer innings than it took last season, and just isn't getting ahead of hitters.
Nola was emphatic saying that his body and arm feel good. He is not hurt. He just isn't in a good place from a control standpoint. He needs to figure it out for this team to get where it wants to go, but the comeback win was at least some solace for him.
"To end their eight-game winning streak, that really mattered," Nola said. "It's a tough one for me again but to come out with a win like this is always good."
The Phillies still have not named a starter for Sunday's game. There are a few different options (see story). If they can find a way to pull out the finale, they'll be 5-1 against the Braves and just a half-game back in the division, even after Atlanta won 22 of its last 32.
"It was huge to win tonight because we want to keep people motivated and stay on top of our stuff," Hernandez said.
"Oh my gosh, what an answer," Bruce added. "That was awesome. Everything was kind of falling their way. Huge win to answer back like that. Kind of shows you what our team is capable of doing."
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