Braves outlast Phillies in 11 innings after long rain delay

AP photo by Laurence Kesterson / The Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. celebrates after scoring on an RBI single by Michael Harris II during the 11th inning of Sunday's game in Philadelphia. The Braves held on to win 8-7 against the Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA — Ronald Acuña Jr. singled home the go-ahead run in the 11th inning, and the Atlanta Braves kept alive their hopes for a fifth straight National League East Division title, outlasting the Philadelphia Phillies 8-7 on Sunday in a game that took more than six hours to complete.

In addition to playing two extra innings, the teams endured a two-hour rain delay in the bottom of the fifth.

"Our goal is to win the World Series again," said Acuña, a three-time All-Star outfielder who was sidelined by injury last fall as the Braves won their first MLB championship since 1995. "It was a big win, and hopefully we'll get the next three "

The second-place Braves split the four-game series with the third-place Phillies by winning the last two and remained 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets. The Braves remain on the road to play a three-game series against the last-place Washington Nationals starting Monday, then have Thursday off before hosting the Mets for three games.

The Mets need just one win against Atlanta to secure the tiebreaker advantage of head-to-head wins. Each team will have another three-game series against other NL East foes to complete the regular season.

"These guys put a lot into these things, and they expend a lot of energy to win games on a nightly basis," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It was a big win to try and keep pace in this whole thing. It is unbelievable with the big hits and everything. Especially against the Phillies, who are a really good team."

Kyle Schwarber extended his NL-leading home run total to 42 with a pair of solo drives while scoring three times for the Phillies. Philadelphia holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the third NL wild-card spot and a head-to-head tiebreaker over them based on a 4-3 season series advantage.

Philadelphia has 10 games remaining in the regular season and Milwaukee has nine, and all of the are on the road for both teams.

"We are going to do a good job of taking out the exceeded pressure," Schwarber said. "We have to enjoy this thing, and it's going to be a fun last road trip. We have to be prepared and locked in and take the results at the end of the day, whether its a win or a loss."

Acuña hadn't played since feeling back tightness before Thursday night's series opener. He pinch-hit for rookie Vaughn Grissom in the eighth inning, was issued an intentional walk and remained in the game.

"I looked down there, and he had his cleats on," Snitker said. "I asked George (Poulos, Atlanta's athletic trainer) if he was good, and he said he was good. Especially a game like this when it's early, it takes them a while to make sure. They treated him up and they said he was good to go for the whole thing — play the outfield and such. It was a good sign."

In the 11th, Acuña hit an RBI single off Andrew Bellatti (4-4) for a 7-6 lead and later scored on a two-out single by rookie Michael Harris II.

"Running around the bases, I didn't feel a thing," Acuna said. "I felt really good."

Jackson Stephens (3-2) pitched the last two innings, giving up an RBI single to J.T. Realmuto in the 11th.

Schwarber's two homers came off Braves starter Charlie Morton — a leadoff shot in the first that ticked the outside of the foul pole in right field and a liner that barely cleared the wall in left-center in the third for a 4-3 lead.

Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer in the fourth off Phillies starter Kyle Gibson for a 5-4 lead. Swanson had three hits and three RBIs.

With the rain pouring down across Citizens Bank Park in the fifth, both Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm lifted sacrifice flies for a 6-5 lead, just before the tarp came out for 2 hours, 9 minutes.

The score remained that way until the eighth, when Phillies reliever David Robertson uncorked a two-out, bases-loaded wild pitch that allowed William Contreras to score the tying run.

It's a big week for the Braves. Before facing the Nationals, they'll visit the White House on Monday morning to celebrate their 2021 World Series title.