ATLANTA — A couple of home runs and some excellent pitching.
That was the Phillies’ recipe in a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
The Phils remain alive in the NL wild-card race. They entered the night four games out and had a chance to pick up ground depending on outcomes elsewhere.
There are 12 games remaining.
Zach Eflin gave the Phils an outstanding start Wednesday night and he was supported by home runs from Bryce Harper and Cesar Hernandez. Harper’s 32nd homer was a long, two-run shot against Julio Teheran in the fourth inning.
The Phillies only had four hits in the game and they struck out 12 times. It helps when half of your hits go over the wall and are preceded by a batter getting hit by a pitch as J.T. Realmuto was before Harper’s homer. The Phils scored their fourth run on a bases-loaded walk to Jean Segura in the sixth.
The Phils have beaten the Braves two straight nights in this three-game series. They have hit four home runs, including three two-run shots, in the two games.
Atlanta’s magic number for winning the NL East is two.
The Phillies are 78-72. They need to win four of their final 12 games to have their first winning season since 2011.
Quite the rebound
Eflin had struggled mightily in three previous starts against the Braves this season, including one last week. In just 9 1/3 innings, he was tagged for 17 hits and 20 runs (eight were unearned). He walked nine and struck out nine.
Eflin really turned the tables in this one. Relying heavily on his favorite pitch, a sinking, two-seam fastball, he held the Braves to five hits and one unearned run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Eflin threw 99 pitches and 57 were sinkers. He got 12 outs on the ground. He also pitched over three errors behind him.
Eflin got into a little jam in the bottom of the sixth when he allowed a one-out infield hit followed by a walk. Dangerous but slow-footed Brian McCann came to the plate with the Braves down, 4-1. The best way to attack McCann in that situation was with a heavy dose of sinkers, something that would produce a ground ball and a potential double play. Eflin threw McCann a first-pitch sinker and got his double play ball for one of his biggest outs of the night.
Lefty Jose Alvarez retired three big bats — Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis — in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out both Freeman and Donaldson and got Markakis on a ground ball. The Phils have done a good job on Freeman in the first two games of the series. They’ve pitched around him some and gone after him some. He is 0 for 5 with four walks.
Hector Neris got the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Heading into the final meeting of the season with Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies have 10-8 record against the Braves.
While the Phils have enjoyed a winning record against the soon-to-be NL East champions, they have struggled against the last-place Miami Marlins. The Phils are 7-9 against the Marlins. The Phils finish the season later this month with three games against Miami.
Good pitching matchup in Thursday afternoon’s series finale: Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62) against right-hander Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.57). First pitch is 12:10 p.m.
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