By AARON BRACY
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — No matter how bad things looked the previous two days, the Phillies still feel good about their playoff chances. A little power and Aaron Nola can do that.
J.T. Realmuto hit a grand slam, three other Phillies went deep and Philadelphia avoided a three-game sweep with a 9-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
Nola (9-2) cruised through six scoreless innings before faltering in the seventh, when the Braves tagged Philadelphia’s ace right-hander for four runs.
Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Adam Haseley also homered for Philadelphia, which pulled within 6½ games of the NL-East leading Braves. The Phillies lost the first two games by a combined score of 24-9.
“All our goals are still here,” Realmuto said. “We feel like we have a team here to do something special.”
Manager Gabe Kapler is optimistic about the Phillies’ chances at making the playoffs as a wild card.
“We’re a club that has yet to come together all at once,” he said. “I believe we have a strong run in us. I don’t think clubs battling for those positions are better than us.”
Philadelphia didn’t pass the eye test in the first two games of the series; it didn’t have Aaron Nola on the mound, either.
Dominating through six, Nola left after surrendering seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He had eight strikeouts and three walks. Nola stayed in good form, moving to 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA over his last eight starts. The rest of Philadelphia’s starters have a 6.36 ERA over the same stretch.
“Momentum is about the next day’s starting pitcher,” Kapler said. “That is who Aaron Nola is.”
Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo homered for Atlanta.
“We came out with a series win and we have another tough series (against Washington starting Monday),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Harper staked Nola to a 1-0 lead with a two-out solo shot to right-center on the first pitch he saw in the first inning off Kevin Gausman (3-6).
Haseley made it 2-0 in the third with a drive to left-center, and Realmuto did the most damage with his grand slam in the fifth.
The Phillies loaded the bases with no outs, then Gausman struck out Harper and got Hoskins to pop out to second on a 3-0 pitch. But Realmuto picked up the two Phillies stars with his third career grand slam, drilling a 3-2, 96 mph fastball deep into the seats in left.
“We needed a big hit in that moment,” Kapler said.
Gausman allowed six runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts and a walk, falling to 0-4 with a 6.45 ERA in four career starts against Philadelphia.
“He just wasn’t hitting spots with his fastball like he was (July 21 against Washington),” Snitker said.
Inciarte got Atlanta on the board with a three-run shot in the seventh, driving a 1-2, 90 mph fastball into the seats in right for his second homer in as many games.
“Made a mistake,” Nola said. “Luckily, it was a good team win.”
Camargo followed by pulling Nola’s next pitch, an 86 mph changeup, over the wall in right to cut the margin to 6-4. The hit snapped a 0-for-16 skid for Camargo, who is filling in for injured Dansby Swanson (bruised right foot) at shortstop.
The Braves hit back-to-back homers for the 11th time this season to tie a franchise record.
Ronald Acuña Jr. extended his major league-leading on-base streak to 32 consecutive games with a seventh-inning single off Nola.
Philadelphia improved to 23-13 during day games, including 12-6 on Sundays. The Phillies are 32-37 at night.
Phillies: SS Jean Segura left the game with two outs in the seventh with a bruised right shin after Acuña slid into him while stealing second. Acuna’s head slammed into Segura on a safe headfirst slide. Kapler said he has “no long-term concerns” about the injury.
Braves: Acuna finished the top of the inning but was replaced in right field in the bottom half due to neck stiffness. Acuna said afterward that his neck was feeling better and he expects to be in the lineup Monday at Washington.
Braves: Open a three-game series at Washington on Monday night. Atlanta LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-3, 3.50) opposes Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin (8-5, 3.25).
Phillies: After an off day, Phillies LHP Drew Smyly (1-5, 7.69) faces San Francisco RHP Tyler Beede (3-4, 4.85) on Tuesday night in the first contest of a three-game set.