PHILADELPHIA — Upon returning to his office Monday, Gabe Kapler described the previous seven days — in which the Phillies went 4-3, including a sour-tasting split of a four-game series against the out-of-contention Cincinnati Reds — as “maybe the road trip that stands out to me most since I’ve been here in Philadelphia about how much fight this club has left.”

Let it be said that Kapler has wild-card fever.

Or maybe just a fever.

Regardless, the Phillies manager oozed bravado, even more than usual. His team was two games behind the Chicago Cubs in a five-team cluster for the second National League wild-card berth, and he was about to give the ball to ace Aaron Nola for a series-opening start against the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

But these are the 2019 Phillies.

They don’t understand the concept of momentum.

So, naturally, Nola allowed four runs over the first two innings, starter-turned-reliever Nick Pivetta gave up a back-breaking three-run home run in the seventh, and the Phillies were throttled 7-2 at an almost half-empty Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies didn’t have a baserunner against Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz until the fifth inning, when Corey Dickerson slugged a solo home run. They had only four more hits for the rest of the game, three of which were singles. Cesar Hernandez led off the bottom of the ninth with a garbage-time solo homer.

A team that needs to roll off as many victories as possible to climb into the playoffs for the first time since 2011 failed to win even a third consecutive game. The Phillies have won as many as three games in a row only three times since the All-Star break. They haven’t won more than four in a row all season, and they have only 19 games left to do it.

Not even Nola could keep Kapler’s buzz going. He gave up a leadoff homer to Ronald Acuna Jr. on the second pitch of the game. Ozzie Albies singled on the fifth pitch. Freddie Freeman doubled on the eighth pitch. Josh Donaldson walked on the 14th pitch. Nola finally recorded a couple of outs when Matt Joyce grounded into a double play, but in so doing, he allowed the Braves’ second run.

The Braves stretched the margin to 4-0 on back-to-back RBI singles by Albies and Freeman in the second inning.

Since they swept a three-game series against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park to begin the season, the Phillies are 3-7 against their division rival. Atlanta has scored 96 runs in 13 games against them, an average of 7.4 per game.

The Phillies decided last month to start Nola as often as possible down the stretch. While other starters have received extra rest whenever a day off has allowed, Nola has pitched every five days in the hopes of maximizing the Phillies’ chance of winning.

But they have lost Nola’s last four starts, the first two against the Miami Marlins on Aug. 25 and New York Mets on Aug. 30 because they failed to provide adequate run support.

But Nola has gotten knocked around in his last two starts. He gave up five runs in four innings and lamented a lack of command last week in Cincinnati, and then this dud against the Braves.

The Phillies had to wait for the Cubs to finish playing in San Diego before knowing if they lost any ground. It almost didn’t matter. The Phillies need to gain ground every chance they get. The season ends in less than three weeks, and with every day that ticks off the calendar, their chances of playing in October take yet another hit.

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