Phillies reduce magic number to 9 with second straight win over Braves

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Phillies reduce magic number to 9 with second straight win over Braves originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Aaron Nola is the longest serving Phillie. Rhys Hoskins is not far behind. During their time at the club, they have never played in a postseason game. They both want it to happen this year. Bad. On Friday night, they backed up their desire with some clutch performance in a very important stretch-drive win over the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Nola threw six shutout innings and Hoskins took home four runs in the 9-1 win.

The win pushed the Phils a little closer to a place they haven’t been since 2011 – the postseason. They are engaged in a three-team battle with San Diego and Milwaukee for the final two NL wildcard spots. The Phils’ lead over Milwaukee, currently the last team out, is 2½ games and the Phils also have a tiebreak over the Brewers on a personal best basis. There are 12 left in the regular season and the Phils magic number for postseason entry is 9.

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Nola was given a break before the match started as Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. for the second night in a row did not start due to a sore lower back. Six days earlier, Acuna Jr. almost single-handed Nola with a two-run homer and a two-run double in Atlanta. The Braves wiped out that three-game streak. The Phillies have won the first two of this four-game streak with southpaw Bailey Falter taking on 19-game winner Kyle Wright on Saturday afternoon.

Nola, who made his debut with the Phillies in 2015, has faced the Braves 29 times in his career, 23 of them since the start of 2018. There are no secrets between the two sides. Beating a team you see like this requires precise execution of the pitch, from location to change of speeds. Nola had a little bit of everything in this one. Not as frugal as he would have liked, throwing 104 pitches in six innings, he got 17 swings and misses, five on his curveball, four on his four-seam fastball, four on his substitution, three on his knife and one on his sinker. He gave up only four hits, walked three and struckout eight.

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Bad Septembers have plagued Nola in recent seasons. This one has been pretty good. The Phillies have won three of his four starts and he has allowed only five earned runs in 21 2/3 innings for a 2.08 ERA.

Run support was sometimes an issue for Nola, but not this one. The Phils attack struck four times against righthander Jake Odorizzi in the second inning and four more in the fourth.

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Hoskins was in the middle of everything for the Phils. He reached base four times with a single, a double, a homer and a walk. He drove in two runs with a two-out double in the second and two more with a homer in the fourth. Hoskins, who made his debut with the Phillies in 2017, is now one home run away from his sophomore season with 30 home runs with the club. He hit 34 in 2018. He missed a lot of time last season with a belly tear, but still hit 27 in 107 games.

Slumping Bryce Harper struckout twice, walked and delivered a run with a sacrifice fly. He is 10 for 67 (.149) this month with 26 strikeouts.

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