By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) — Zach Eflin insists the Philadelphia Phillies won’t go down without a fight.
“We have the guys in the clubhouse to do it and get there and make a postseason run,” he said. “We’re looking forward to riding the momentum in these coming days and the next series we have and really do just everything we can to make it.”
Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer, Eflin pitched seven smooth innings and the Phillies won their second straight game over the Atlanta Braves, beating the NL East leaders 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Atlanta has lost three in a row for the first time since July 16-18, but still leads the division by nine games. With nine games left in the regular season, the Braves can clinch their second consecutive NL East title with either two wins, two Washington losses or a combination of one each.
The Phillies, eliminated from the division race, are three games back in the chase for the second wild card and need to pass three teams to make the playoffs.
Harper has more homers (nine) against Braves starter Julio Teheran than any pitcher he’s faced. He has gone deep seven times against Atlanta this year, more than any other Braves opponent.
Teheran hit J.T. Realmuto with a pitch in the fourth before Harper took him deep to right-center, the slugger’s 32nd homer, for a 2-1 lead. Harper has a .404 average in 47 career at-bats against Teheran.
“Obviously in the past we’ve had issues and it’s been kind of up and down,” Teheran said. “It was a mistake and we all know what kind of a good hitter he is.”
Eflin (9-12) gave up just an unearned run and five hits. He had not made it out of the fourth inning in any of his first three starts against Atlanta, allowing 20 runs — 12 earned — with 17 hits and nine walks in 9 1/3 innings.
“That was the toughest, from a mental standpoint, start from a pitcher that we’ve gotten all season long,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “He just kind of had a resiliency about him in this game that he wasn’t going to get beat mentally and just continued to induce groundball after groundball, weak contact throughout the game.”
The Phillies led 4-1 in the sixth after César Hernández hit his 12th homer off Teheran, and Jean Segura drew a bases-loaded walk from Luke Jackson. Teheran (10-10) allowed three hits and four runs — three earned — in five-plus innings. He has permitted five homers and eight earned runs in his last two starts, both against Philadelphia.
José Álvarez faced the minimum in the eighth, and Héctor Neris earned his second save of the series and 28th in 34 chances with a perfect ninth.
Poor fielding hurt Philadelphia in the second. Hernández, the second baseman, made a throwing error for the second straight inning, and Adam Haseley let a liner bounce off his glove in left field, allowing Joyce to reach and advancing Nick Markakis to third. Brian McCann grounded into a fielder’s choice for a 1-0 Atlanta lead.
The Braves, who wrapped up a playoff spot last weekend, have lost a multigame series for the first time in their last 16. They were 11-0-4 since July 23-24 and had the majors’ longest streak this season without a series loss. Houston went 13 straight from May 4 to June 14.
As the regular season winds down, Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak are meeting with players individually to remind them that the team can still make the postseason and to let them voice any concerns.
“This is less what Matt and I are saying to the players and more about giving them an opportunity to share anything on their minds,” Kapler said.
Kapler and Klentak are calling players into Kapler’s office on a daily basis. Veteran outfielder Jay Bruce emerged from a long powwow before Wednesday’s game.
“We’re just having casual, open, organic discussions,” Kapler said. “We’re going to talk to as many guys as we can get to, again, with no set schedule.”
Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62 ERA) has won three of five starts but has a 4.06 ERA against the Braves this year.
Braves: RHP Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.57 ERA) has the third-lowest ERA in the majors, but a 4.82 mark in two starts against Philadelphia this year.