Odubel Herrera stood at second base Monday night with his hands on his hips as if he could not believe what had just happened. He smacked himself in the helmet. He barked an obscenity. And he stayed there for a moment, hoping maybe an instant replay or some blind luck would change his fortune in a 2-1 loss to the Braves.
Herrera appeared to leg out a double in the third inning as he sprinted to second after grounding a ball to right field. But Herrera forgot to slide. He instead tried to go into second standing and was easily tagged out. The blunder sapped the Phillies of momentum. Herrera's double would have given them runners on second and third with one out. The inning instead ended two batters later without a run scored.
Monday's offensive struggles – the Phillies left 10 runners on base – can not be solely pinned on Herrera. He provided the team's lone run with a first-inning homer. But this felt like a critical mistake. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak and the Phillies failed to secure their first seven-game streak since 2012. The Phillies will have to win the final two games here to capture a fourth-straight series.
The Phillies have learned to live with Herrera over the last three years. He's been their best hitter since he arrived, but he's also been maddening. They could only enjoy his homer for two innings as those feelings washed away when he walked into the tag at second base.
It stalled the big inning the Phillies sought for Aaron Nola, who allowed two runs in six innings. The right-hander struck out two, walked one, and allowed four hits. He has allowed just six earned runs this season in his first 24 1/3 innings. Nola was his usual self. It wasn't his fault he received such little support. Victor Arano relieved him to pitch the final two innings. The right-hander retired each of the six batters he faced and has retired all 22 batters he has faced this season.
Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Altherr reached in the seventh on consecutive one-out walks. But that rally stalled, too. Pedro Florimon struck out as a pinch-hitter for J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco grounded into a fielder's choice. Nick Williams singled with one out in the ninth. But the next two batters – Scott Kingery and Carlos Santana – went down. The Phillies came up short.
An inning after his baserunning miscue, Herrera seemed to have another lapse. Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki hit a fly ball to shallow center and it was Herrera's play to make. But he yielded at the last moment to Aaron Altherr, who sprinted in and made the catch. Altherr had to right himself before throwing home to unsuccessfully nab a tagging Ozzie Albies. It is the center fielder's job to direct the outfielders, but Herrera failed to take charge.
He returned to the dugout after his miscue on the basepaths and quietly put away his batting helmet. He grabbed his glove when the Phillies made their third out and headed for the outfield. But before Herrera got to center, Hoskins pulled him aside and the two had a brief chat. Hoskins, playing in just his 65th major-league game, has emerged as the team's leader. And this was a moment to lead.