By Peter Marx
Ranger Suárez pitched six sparkling innings, and the Phillies can taste their first playoff berth in a decade with a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Matt Vierling knocked in the only run in the game with a second-inning sacrifice fly to center that scored J.T. Realmuto.
Suárez allowed five hits, struck out four and walked two. Zach Eflin got five outs before José Alvarado finished the six-hitter for his second save.
“I just focused on throwing quality pitches,” said Suárez, who earned a no-decision in his previous start against Atlanta last week. “That’s the main thing. It’s really tough when you face the same lineup back to back. We knew coming in that it would be like that, but I had a good plan with J.T.”
The Phillies (82-67) moved within a half-game of San Diego for the National League’s second wild-card spot and remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final playoff berth. The Phillies also hold the season series edge over the Brewers, which serves as the tiebreaker this year after Major League Baseball eliminated the single-game tiebreaker under its expanded playoff format.
“It was a tight game with a lot of pressure and they came through,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said. “Ranger was as cool as a cucumber and just pitched like we’ve seen in the past. He was tremendous. Nothing in the game bothers Eflin. And we wanted to see by the end of the year if Alvarado could pitch the ninth and more than one inning and he did that tonight.”
The Braves (93-57) fell 1 1/2 games behind the idle New York Mets for the NL East lead. The two teams meet in Atlanta next weekend for the final three scheduled games against each other this season. Atlanta has clinched a playoff berth and is presently seeded as the NL’s top wild card.
“Ranger is good and he came out throwing a lot of strikes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And we couldn’t get anything going.”
Atlanta played without outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who was scratched because of back tightness that he felt during batting practice.
The Braves threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with two out. But Suárez escaped the jam when he retired Michael Harris II on a grounder to first.
Eflin and Alvarado combined to finish the Phillies’ 14th shutout of the season.
Braves starter Max Fried (13-7) struck out eight in five innings.
“It’s a really good lineup and when you face them in back-to-back starts, they are going to grind out at-bats,” Fried said. “I would have loved to have been more efficient and gone deeper in the game.”
Atlanta slugger Austin Riley had three hits for his 46th multihit game of the season, second-most among NL players behind Los Angeles’ Freddie Freeman.
Both teams were affected by high cross-field winds. Two potential home-run balls — one by Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins, and one for Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna — were knocked down at the warning track in left field by the 17-mph winds.