ATLANTA — The Phillies survived a ninth-inning high-wire act from Hector Nervous, er, Neris and held on for a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.
With 13 games to go, the Phillies are barely alive in the National League wild-card race.
But they are alive.
“We still have odds and we know that,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Sure we know they may be long and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re still in it and I think getting this win tonight is huge.”
It was a good way to open an 11-game road trip that will take the Phillies to Cleveland and Washington after this three-game stop in Atlanta, where the Braves will wrap up a second straight NL East title any day now.
The Phils would rather the Braves not do that while they are here. That happened last year and it was painful.
The entire ending to last season was painful. The Phils went into the final 14 games of last season with a 76-72 record — the same slate they had going into Tuesday night’s game — and went 4-10 down the stretch to finish under .500 at 80-82.
“Everyone that was part of that last year carries that with them,” Hoskins said. “Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year at the end of the year, nobody likes watching people clinch. I think everybody in the whole league is in the same boat there. But we still have a chance and we know it. It started tonight and we just have to continue it tomorrow.”
At 77-72, the Phillies need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.
They just need wins to stay in the postseason hunt.
They are four games back in a crowded wild-card race.
Picking up wins against the Braves, Indians and Nationals on this trip will require a lot of clutch work and the Phillies got some of that Tuesday. To wit:
• Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez limited damage and stayed in the game after throwing 30 pitches and allowing two runs in the first inning. He delivered five innings of two-run ball.
• Hoskins and Jose Pirela both clubbed two-run homers against Keuchel to help the Phils build a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. Keuchel came into the game on a big roll. He’d won his previous five starts and had given up just four runs in those games. Beating him would not be easy, but the Phils did it. They had to.
• Overall, the bullpen did some clutch work — four innings, two runs — despite allowing a pair of late homers to make it a one-run game.
Neris gave up a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves made it a one-run game. He then issued a walk to Ronald Acuna Jr., who stole second and moved to third on a ground out. Neris then walked dangerous Freddie Freeman to put runners on the corners for cleanup man Josh Donaldson, who has 88 RBIs. As the ballpark rocked and the tomahawk chop chopped, Neris remained cool and struck out Donaldson before getting Nick Markakis on a pop up to end the game.
“To be able to collect himself after walking Freddie and to get a huge second out against Donaldson was, I think, what kind of tipped it back in our favor,” Hoskins said. “Huge props to Hector. We’ve seen him do that a lot. It was cool to see him come out on top.”
Manager Gabe Kapler praised the composure that Velasquez and Neris showed in the first and ninth innings, respectively.
“I think today, the reason we won the game, in addition to Hector’s composure and Vinnie’s composure, is that we were able to put a big inning on the board highlighted by a really good swing by Rhys Hoskins,” Kapler said.
The manager knows making the playoffs is a long shot. He’s not giving in.
“We spent a lot of time today talking about the importance of these last 14 games,” Kapler said. “We know where we are in the standings, we know what the numbers say, but that’s not what we’re paying attention to right now. We’re paying attention to fighting for each other all the way through the finish line.”
The fight continues Wednesday night with Zach Eflin on the mound. Thirteen games to go and the Phils have no margin for error.
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