The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves at their own game Tuesday night.
The Phillies matched a season-high with five home runs and those long balls accounted for all their runs in a 6-5 win in front of just 24,220 at Citizens Bank Park.
The homers came early and often for the Phillies. J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Corey Dickerson all went deep in the first inning as the Phillies build an early 4-0 lead.
After the Braves tied the game, Scott Kingery smacked an inside-the-park homer in the third inning to give the Phillies a lead. Ultimately, the Phils needed Dickerson’s second homer of the night, a solo shot in the sixth, and lots of good relief pitching, to hold off the Braves.
The Phillies entered the game ranked 11th in the NL with 186 homers. The Braves were second with 229. The Phils ended up out-homering the Braves, 5-1.
With 18 games left, the Phillies are still alive in a crowded NL wild-card race. They entered the day three games out and could pick up a game depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs game in San Diego.
Two extremes of pitching
Phillies starter Jason Vargas struggled. He could not hold a 4-0 lead. He lasted just three innings and threw 77 pitches, only 39 of which were strikes.
Vargas’ mates got him the lead before he officially left the game, then the bullpen did a terrific job protecting that lead. Gabe Kapler used five relievers and they racked up six innings of one-run ball to seal the win.
Jared Hughes had one of the biggest outs when he got dangerous Josh Donaldson to ground into a double play to end the top of the seventh. He then allowed a homer to make it a one-run game in the eighth.
Hector Neris protected the lead for the save.
Blake Parker pitched two scoreless innings.
Oh, what a catch! … No wait!
With two outs in the third inning and the game tied at 4-4, Kingery drove a high fly ball to center. The ball cleared the wall, but Atlanta centerfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was able to leap and get his glove in the ball. He had the ball in the pocket of his glove and brought it back onto the field but could not hold on to it for a catch. Robbed of a conventional homer, Kingery alertly continued to run and he made it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
Kingery’s 19th homer gave the Phils a 5-4 lead.
Heck of a pickup
General manager Matt Klentak has taken much criticism for not doing enough to fortify the pitching staff at the trade deadline, but he picked up a difference-making bat. Dickerson has eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games with the Phillies.
Phillies starter Vargas allowed six base runners and four runs as the Braves erased a four-run deficit in the third inning. The damage could have been worse if it weren’t for Kingery and Harper. They both made defensive gems in the inning, Kingery a diving catch in the alley with the bases full and Harper a long throw from right field to third base to cut down a runner.
The strong defense continued in the top of the sixth when Realmuto gunned down Acuna Jr., trying to steal second with two outs. Realmuto has thrown out 36 runners trying to steal this season.
Reliever Seranthony Dominguez continues to test his injured elbow. He will toss out to 90 feet this week and is tentatively scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound on Sept. 20. Dominguez has been down since early June, but doctors still believe his injury can be treated non-surgically.
Pat Neshek, who was already out for the season, had surgery to repair a torn hamstring on Tuesday.
Zach Eflin (8-11, 4.31) opposes Dallas Keuchel (7-5, 3.47) in the third game of the four-game series on Wednesday night. Eflin has pitched well in his last three starts. He has allowed just five earned runs and 15 hits in 18 innings while striking out 11 and walking just one over that span. Eflin’s recent success has coincided with his increased use of his two-seam fastball.
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