The Philadelphia Phillies came into their Saturday night contest against the Atlanta Braves, which the Braves eventually won in extras (ATL 8, PHI 7 - 12 innings), riding a five-game win streak that pushed them to the top of the NL East standings. For a time, it looked very much like they would push that win streak to six games, but the Braves thwarted those hopes with not one but three late-inning comebacks.
To get a full grasp of things, have a look at the win expectancy chart, which tracks each team's chances of winning a given game:
In the bottom of the ninth, the Braves were chasing two runs and down to their final strike when veteran batsman Pablo Sandoval came through with a clutch pinch-hit homer off Philly closer Hector Neris. Earlier in that frame, the Braves' chances of winning dipped to 1.5 percent. That was Sandoval's fourth pinch-hit home run of the season, which puts him on pace to break the single-season record of seven pinch-hit home runs. The record is shared by Dave Hansen of the Dodgers in 2000 and Craig Wilson of the Pirates in 2001.
In the 11th, the Braves were down 4-3 and burdened by a meager 16.9 percent chance of winning, but a leadoff single by Ehire Adrianza in the home half plated the automatic runner and tied the score again. The wheels came off for the Braves in the top of the 12th thanks in large measure to a fielding error by catcher William Contreras and a throwing error by reliever Jacob Webb. Moments after his throwing error, Webb allowed another run to score when he neglected to cover home plate while Contreras scurried to retrieve his errant throw. The Phillies wound up plating three runs in the inning to take a commanding 7-4 lead. When Andrew Knapp scored that seventh Philly run of the evening, the Braves' chances of winning dipped again to 2.1 percent.
Yet again, though, the Braves answered back. Here's how the bottom of the 12th unfolded, much to the chagrin of the Phillies and their rooters:
- Automatic runner
- Bases-clearing double
- Pitching change
- Batter safe at first on sac bunt, runner advances to third
- Walk-off single
As you may have already surmised, the Phillies failed to record a single out en route to blowing that three-run lead in the 12th. It all looked a little something like this:
As a consequence, the Phillies fell percentage points behind the New York Mets in the NL East standings, and the Braves pulled to within 1 1/2 games of the lead. If it's any consolation for the Phillies -- and it probably isn't -- then they should recall that their previous absurdly crushing loss immediately preceded that now-dead five-game win streak. Basic correlation-causation errors can occasionally be a source of comfort, you know.