This one stung.
On the field.
In the standings.
All the way up to the front-office suite.
The Phillies' playoff hopes were bruised in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night and the man who delivered much of the bruising was none other than pitcher Dallas Keuchel.
The left-hander held the Phillies to a run over six innings. He is 8-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts since signing with the Braves in early June.
The Phillies had starting pitching needs, not to mention a need for a left-hander, and were mentioned throughout the winter and spring as a potential landing spot for Keuchel. In actuality, however, the Phils showed little interest in Keuchel and he signed a one-year, $13 million contract with the Braves, who have won 91 games and are days away from wrapping up their second straight NL East title.
After the game, Keuchel called out Phillies management when he was asked if the Phils' lack of interest in him fueled any extra motivation leading up to the start.
"I mean, if you don't come calling what is there for me to be mad about?" he said. "I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too."
Keuchel, 31, won the American League Cy Young Award with Houston in 2015 and was an All-Star in 2017. Despite his resume, he lingered on the free-agent market last winter as teams were leery of his declining strikeout numbers and rising hits totals.
Keuchel had no problem with either Wednesday night. He held the Phillies to three hits and struck out eight. He threw 97 pitches and got 10 swings-and-misses, mostly on sliders and changeups.
"Had the sinker, kept the ball down, executed his changeup, got some swings-and-misses, got some ground balls," manager Gabe Kapler said.
Keuchel's biggest out came in the bottom of the fifth after he had loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batsman with one out in a two-run game.
The Phillies had the man they wanted at the plate.
But Keuchel got Bryce Harper to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.
"I think Keuchel threw the ball well," Harper said. "He's good. I thought he mixed pretty well. I had the opportunity with the bases loaded and one out but missed that first-pitch changeup and had to battle from there. I have to get the job done there and wasn't able to. That's about the only opportunity we had. As a team, I thought we battled. We only had three hits (through eight innings) and we have to be better as an offense and hit better."
Harper and Keuchel are both represented by super agent Scott Boras.
Harper was asked if he was surprised that no one jumped on Keuchel earlier.
"Yeah," said Harper, who in March signed for 13 years and $330 million with the Phillies. "He's a Cy Young winner for a reason. If you have an opportunity to go out and get a guy like that, I think all 29 teams should have that. But that's how the game is right now and that's how it goes. I thought Keuchel came out tonight and threw the ball really well."
Keuchel was not the only Braves in-season pitching acquisition to contribute to Wednesday night's win over the Phillies. After Keuchel left, the Braves got three scoreless innings from the bullpen trio of Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon. All three joined the Braves in trades at the July deadline.
One night after bashing five homers in a 6-5 win over the Braves, the Phils had just five singles for the game. Two of them were infield hits in the ninth.
"It's frustrating," Kapler said of the offensive inconsistency. "But you're not going to get too high or too low. You're not going to act like you won the World Series after you win a game and we're not going get too distraught after we lose a game. We come back tomorrow to compete."
Phillies starter Zach Eflin ran a high pitch count and did not get out of the fourth inning. He allowed a three-run homer to Tyler Flowers with two outs in that inning. All the runs were unearned after an error by shortstop Jean Segura.
It was a difficult loss and not just because Keuchel, whose 3.35 ERA would lead the Phillies staff, was there for the taking just a few months ago. Another day slipped away on the schedule and the Phils did not pick up ground in the wild-card chase. They entered the day two games back and could slip to three back, depending on the outcome of Wednesday night's late game between the Cubs and Padres.
Seventeen games remain on the Phillies' schedule, including three against the Braves in Atlanta next week.
If the Braves stay on turn, guess who will pitch Tuesday night's series opener.
Yep. Keuchel again.