It may seem harsh to point fingers directly at the player who allowed the Braves the go-ahead run in the game. After all, Jeff Hoffman has been one of the bright spots in the Phillies bullpen all season with a 5-2 record, 2.41 ERA with 11 holds and only two blown saves all year.
He was virtually unhittable in September down the stretch when he went 2-0 with six holds, giving up only two runs on four hits with 16 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched. More importantly, opponents batted only .103 against him during that stretch.
However, perhaps it was the nerves that got to him, as Hoffman would promptly hit Acuña with his very first pitch after replacing the ever-so-steady José Alvarado in the eighth inning with the Phillies up 4-3. That put the tying run on base and raised the stakes and stress level at the same time for Hoffman.
He was able to get Albies to ground out for the second out of the inning. But the unfortunate mistake was his approach in Austin Riley’s at-bat with two outs.
All game, the Wheeler had pounded Riley with pitches mainly up and in, with a couple down and away because they knew those were Riley’s weak spots from scouting reports and charts. They successfully neutralized him in the first three at-bats, with Riley striking out two times in the process.
However, Hoffman failed to locate a couple of his pitches. One was down the middle and one near the bottom half of the zone, which are Riley’s strength and power zone. Fortunately, Riley just missed the first one, but on the second one he didn't make the same mistake twice, as he launched it over the wall in left field, putting the Braves ahead for good.
So, unfortunately for Hoffman, he didn’t execute according to the game plan, and it cost the Phillies dearly.