Braves rally past Phillies as Ozzie Albies returns to lineup

AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies watches his two-run double during the eighth inning of Friday night's comeback win against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.

ATLANTA — William Contreras hopes Ronald Acuña Jr. is starting to hit his stride, even if it's mid-September after being slowed by knee soreness most of the year.

"We're talking about the best player in the league, and thank God he's on our team," Contreras said via a translator. "He brings the energy to us."

Acuña hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in a six-run eighth inning off Seranthony Domínguez, and the Atlanta Braves rallied for a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.

The opposite-field shot erased a 2-1 deficit and touched off a wild celebration at sold-out Truist Park, helping the second-place Braves stay a game behind the New York Mets in the National League East. Atlanta won its fourth straight division title last year on the way to its first World Series championship since 1995.

Contreras connected off Phillies starter Ranger Suárez to make it 1-all in the fourth, then added an RBI single off Domínguez to make it 4-2. Contreras finished 3-for-4.

Domínguez walked pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario to begin the eighth, and Acuña attacked the first pitch he saw, sending a 98 mph sinker 383 feet into the seats in right-center field for his 12th homer of the year. Austin Riley doubled, advanced on a walk and scored on Contreras' hit up the middle, Michael Harris II added an RBI single and Ozzie Albies delivered a two-run bloop double to make it 7-2.

Albies was reinstated from the injured list and recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett ahead of the weekend series after missing 81 games due to fracturing his left foot while batting during a June 13 road game against the Washington Nationals and needing surgery.

"It feels awesome to be here," Albies said before Friday's game. "Everything feels normal."

He started at second base, batted eighth in the lineup and went 1-for-4.

The two-time All-Star hit .333 in 27 at-bats with a homer and six RBIs during his rehab assignment with Gwinnett. He was hitting .244 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 62 MLB games this year before his injury.

"The good news is he says he feels great," Braves manager Brian Snitker said before the game. "With his energy and what he can bring, it's a good thing, a shot in the arm for us."

Albies' return will make rookie Vaughn Grissom a role player, though Snitker indicated Albies could serve as a designated hitter to get Grissom some playing time at second base. To make room for Albies on the active roster, the team designated right-hander Jay Jackson for assignment and placed infielder Ehire Adrianza on the 10-day injured list.

Acuña played right field instead of serving as the DH on Friday, freeing Snitker to use Contreras — like Acuña, an All-Star this season — in that role. Acuña's surgically repaired right knee has given him fits through much of the season as he's returned from missing the second half of last year and the beginning of the 2022 schedule, which led to less time in the outfield.

"Ronald is a teammate of mine and obviously want the best for him, and it was a good opportunity for him to get the DH (at-bats)," said Contreras, who also plays catcher for the Braves. "We want to take care of him. In that sense it hurt my playing time a little bit, but I'm glad we were able to do that to take care of Ronald's knee."

For the Phillies, Kyle Schwarber hit his NL-leading and career-high 39th homer, and Jean Segura also went deep to back Suárez.

Schwarber made it 1-0 to begin the fourth when he got the first hit off Max Fried at Truist Park since the fifth inning of an Aug. 30 loss to the Colorado Rockies, a span of nine innings. The ball sailed 410 feet into the Atlanta bullpen and left his bat at 110 mph.

Suárez held the Braves to one run on two hits in six innings after going 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his three previous starts against Atlanta this year. The left-hander walked three batters and struck out four, lowering his road ERA to 1.63 in nine starts since June 7.

After Contreras tied it at 1 with his 18th homer this year — a 439-foot shot that came off his bat at 112 mph and landed in the seats in left-center — Segura responded with his 10th homer of the season to make it 2-1 in the fifth.

Jesse Chavez (4-1) earned the win after getting the final out of the eighth.

Domínguez (6-5) allowed three hits and five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

"Any time you lose a game like that, it's tough," Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said. "But these guys know what's ahead of them, and they're going to bounce back just like they have all year."

The Phillies began the day 2 1/2 games up on the San Diego Padres for the NL's second wild card.

Atlanta had lost four of its previous five games but is 66-28 since June 1, best in the majors over that span.

Fried threw a season-high 110 pitches, allowing two runs and four hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings. The All-Star left-hander's previous start at Truist Park, a 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Sept. 4, ended with five innings of hitless ball in a rain-shortened outing.

"I felt like I could've been a little bit better," Fried said of Friday's start. "Keeping us in the game was definitely where I was at. That eighth inning was huge. Put together great at-bats and really put us over the edge."

The teams began the night having split 12 games against each other this season, but the Braves have won nine of their past 12 against the Phillies at Truist Park, outscoring them 63-40.

There were some empty seats in the opener of a three-game series between division foes, but the Braves still announced a crowd 42,578, the 36th sellout of the season.

Before the game, Atlanta right-hander Kirby Yates (elbow inflammation) was placed on the injured list and right-hander William Woods was recalled from Gwinnett.