PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Matt Olson was raised an Atlanta Braves fan and appreciated the significance of the stars he passed on the way up the franchise’s single-season home run list. Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, both sluggers left behind as Olson crushed one homer after another in a career season for the best team in baseball.
With homers No. 49 and 50 against the Phillies — the first one, launched off the second deck, the second, sliced the opposite way to left field — Olson entered rarified air among Atlanta's greats.
Now, only Andruw Jones has more homers in a season with 51 in 2005. Olson’s Atlanta record seems a mere formality, as does another NL East crown for the Braves.
“It’s definitely a cool moment I can look back on,” Olson said. “I’d be lying if you said you don’t want it. But it’s not the priority.”
Yes, the individual records are nice, but winning remains the main thing for the Braves, who inched closer to their sixth straight division crown with a doubleheader split Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Brandon Marsh homered, Jake Cave added an RBI triple and the Phillies spoiled Olson’s 50th homer with a 7-5 win in the nightcap against the Braves. Michael Harris II and Ronald Acuña Jr. went deep for the Braves in a 10-8, 10-inning win in the opener. Harris also homered in the nightcap.
The Braves, who have secured at least a wild card and reached the postseason for the sixth straight year, need to win the final two games of the series to clinch the NL East in Philadelphia.
Olson hit a three-run homer off the second deck in the third and added a solo shot for his MLB-best 50th in the sixth, both off Phillies starter Michael Lorenzen (9-9). Olson had already set career-highs in homers and RBIs with 127, putting him within striking distance of Gary Sheffield’s Atlanta record of 132 RBIs in 2003.
“He’s putting together some kind of great year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Olson, who also extended his hitting streak to nine games, had his 21st multi-homer game of the season. Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber retrieved the ball from the Phillies fan who caught No. 50 and got the ball to Olson.
“Respect that from him,” Olson said.
The Phillies are doing what they can to hang on to the top spot in the NL wild-card race and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The reigning NL champs entered with a 1 1/2-game lead on the Chicago Cubs.
Cave’s triple in the third made it 5-3 and spoiled right-hander Kyle Wright’s first start since May 3.
Wright (0-2) had been on the 60-day injured list with a strained right shoulder. A 21-game winner last season, Wright was lit up from the start. He faced eight batters and allowed four runs in the first inning, with Edmundo Sosa doing the most damage on a two-RBI double off the left-field wall.
“I think that was the one thing, if I'd done a better job in that first inning of controlling the game, I think it would have been a good spot,” Wright said. “I kind of liked where my stuff was at. It's just of a little all over. Command was kind of hit and miss.”
Lorenzen, who hasn’t pitched out of the sixth since his Aug. 9 no-hitter, gave up four runs in five innings.
“I thought, if you take Olson out of the game, he pitched a lot better than what the line says,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.
Unlike the opener, when the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered four runs, Lorenzen was helped by four relievers, who tossed four innings of shutout ball. Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 23rd save.
Kevin Pillar and Orlando Arcia each had run-scoring hits in the 10th off José Alvarado (0-2) in the first game. The Braves needed extras after Bryce Harper tied the game with a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth.
“I was hoping that we’d go three up, three down because I didn’t want to see him come up with a guy on,” Snitker said with a laugh. “But that’s great, the way the guys fought back.”
The Braves would love to clinch the division on the same Citizens Bank Park field where they were eliminated by the Phillies in last season’s NL Division Series. Atlanta’s five-year division title run is the longest active streak in baseball.
Yes, the Phillies — and their fans — point to that NLDS as proof that the regular season can seem inconsequential in October. The Braves won 101 games and the Phillies 87. But Philadelphia needed just four games in a lopsided series to move on and eventually reach the World Series.
The Braves won their MLB-best 94th game on Monday and are clicking like a team with serious World Series aspirations. They are +240 to win the World Series, easily the best odds to win it of any team, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
WHAT DAY OFF?
Monday was scheduled as an off day for both teams.
But when the NFL schedule was released and the Eagles were slotted to play their home opener Thursday night, the Braves-Phillies game was shifted to Monday. When the scheduled June 21 game in Philadelphia was rained out, the teams were forced to play a doubleheader.
The Braves send LHP Max Fried (7-1, 2.70 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday against Phillies RHP Zach Wheeler (11-6, 3.49 ERA).
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