Phillies unable to capitalize on chances all night in loss to Braves

The Phillies carried their run of strong starting pitching into Tuesday’s series opener with the Braves but they didn’t take enough advantage of their opportunities against Spencer Strider in a 4-2 loss.

The Phils scored first on Strider with a two-out single from Nick Castellanos in the bottom of the fifth but Austin Riley answered the next half-inning with a solo bomb to left field. That was the only run allowed by Ranger Suarez, who struck out seven and allowed four hits to the best lineup in the National League.

The bullpen wasn’t as effective. The loss went to Jeff Hoffman, who entered in relief in the seventh inning. He walked the first batter he faced and allowed a pinch-hit double to red-hot Eddie Rosario to put runners on second and third with nobody out. After a great pick by Kody Clemens on a one-hop line shot to first base resulted in the first out, Hoffman gave up an RBI single to Ronald Acuña Jr. and an RBI groundout to Ozzie Albies. Atlanta added another insurance run in the eighth when Matt Olson homered off of lefty Andrew Vasquez.

That was all she wrote. The Braves are 47-26, nine games ahead of the 38-35 Phillies. As well as the Phillies have played in June, going 13-5, they’ve actually lost 1½ games of ground to the Braves.

“Would’ve been great coming in that first night after an off-day and getting that W, especially against the team that’s in first place in our division,” Bryce Harper said. “That’s a game that we definitely let get away from us.”

Hoffman was used in the seventh inning of a tie game because Jose Alvarado, Matt Strahm and Yunior Marte were all unavailable.

“With his splitter, we felt like that’s going to neutralize a little bit of their left-handed bats,” manager Rob Thomson said. “To me, the leadoff walk is the deal, because it gives them energy and momentum.”

The Phils tallied eight hits off of Strider in the first five innings. Only once in his 35 career big-league starts has Strider allowed more hits. But they left two runners on in the first inning, stranded Brandon Marsh after a leadoff double in the third and quickly had a potential fourth-inning rally derailed when Bryson Stott hit into an unconventional 6-4-5 double play. Strider struck out nine in his six innings.

“Anytime you can put pressure on a guy, especially somebody that’s had our number a little bit, I thought we had some opportunities to get runs in there and it just didn’t happen for us,” Harper said.

J.T. Realmuto, coming off of a tremendous road trip, singled twice but ran the Phillies out of a potential rally in the bottom of the eighth. He singled to left-center and it should have put runners on the corners with two outs to bring the tying run to the plate, but Realmuto inexplicably tried to stretch it into a double — against a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder in Michael Harris II, no less — and was thrown out. The Phillies have been thrown out on the basepaths 25 times this season (excluding times caught stealing), second-most in the National League to the Reds.

“Just being over-aggressive, trying to do too much,” Thomson said.

Stott opened the ninth inning with an opposite-field double after a long at-bat against Braves closer Raisel Iglesias and scored after a lineout and a groundout. Marsh singled to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Kyle Schwarber, who struck out to end the game.

The rotation continues to pitch well with a 1.72 ERA over the last 16 games. Suarez has a 1.38 ERA over his last five starts and 30 of his last 35 innings have been scoreless. It’s not as if he’s accomplished this against bottom-tier offenses, either. Three of those five games were against the Braves, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the National League in runs per game.

The Phillies look to even the series Wednesday night when Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.66) opposes rookie AJ Smith-Shawver, who is making his third career start after beginning the season in Single A.