Phillies 9, Braves 4
ATLANTA (AP)—Jason Michaels planted his face against the outfield wall, not believing what just happened. Somehow, he had accidentally swatted the ball into the seats for a bizarre home run.
At least he could smile about it later.
Despite Michaels’ gaffe, the Philadelphia Phillies prevailed 9-4 Thursday night for their third straight win over the Atlanta Braves, going ahead for good on Jim Thome’s two-run double in the seventh inning.
Everyone will remember what happened in the fourth.
With the Braves trailing 4-3, Charles Thomas led off with a deep drive to center. Michaels did well just getting to the ball, reaching up for it at the edge of the warning track.
The ball deflected off Michaels’ glove and headed toward the ground. The center fielder swatted at it, still trying to make the catch. Instead, he knocked it into the first row of seats.
“I was at a loss for words,” Michaels said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I almost didn’t think it was real.”
Immediately, he thought of Jose Canseco, still remembered for having a fly ball bounce off his head and over the wall.
“I think that’s the No. 1 ESPN blooper,” Michaels said.
And his own play?
“I’ve got to be right there,” he replied with an embarrassed smile.
Thomas was running full speed as he approached third. He slowed when he saw coach Fredi Gonzalez pointing toward the plate and umpire Lance Barksdale circling his index finger to signal home run.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Thomas said. “It’s just one of those quirky plays.”
Phillies manager Larry Bowa had never seen anything like it during all his years in the game.
“It was like jai alai,” he said. “He had it on his hand and flipped it out.”
Philadelphia helped its faltering playoff hopes by taking three of four games at Turner Field. The relievers certainly did their job, pitching 16 scoreless innings during the series.
“They were lights out,” Bowa said.
Atlanta overcame a 4-0 deficit, but Thome took advantage of a questionable decision by the Braves in the seventh. With a runner at second and two outs, Atlanta intentionally walked Bobby Abreu to get to Thome.
“We’d been striking him out on a regular basis the whole series,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said, defending the decision.
Not this time. The Phillies’ cleanup hitter drove in both runners with a double into the right-field corner off Ramon Colon (1-1) for a 6-4 lead.
“One thing you’ve got to admire about Thome,” Bowa said. “No matter if he’s 0-for-20 or 18-for-20, he wants to be in that spot. You can’t teach that. All good hitters are like that.”
Pat Burrell homered in the eighth and doubled in another run in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
Philadelphia starter Cory Lidle had a 22-inning scoreless streak until Chipper Jones hit a three-run homer in the third. Lidle went five innings, giving up eight hits and all four Atlanta runs, but the bullpen picked him up.
“They’ve certainly got the arms down there and reputations to go with it,” Jones said.
Lidle had no complaints about Michaels’ strange play.
“As a pitcher, I appreciate the effort,” Lidle said. “It’s unfortunate it went over.”
The game started out like a Phillies romp. After just two pitches, Russ Ortiz was already behind 2-0.
Jimmy Rollins led off with a homer into the right-field seats, his 11th of the season. Placido Polanco followed with an even longer drive into the left-field stands for his 14th homer. When Abreu took the third pitch of the game for a ball, the crowd at Turner Field mocked Ortiz with a loud cheer.
That was about the only applause for Ortiz, who gave up a two-run homer to Mike Lieberthal in the second. The Atlanta starter was finally lifted in the third when he walked the bases loaded with one out.
Juan Cruz escaped the jam by getting Burrell to hit into a double play. In the bottom half, Jones put the Braves right back in it with his 27th homer.
Cox was ejected after the sixth by Barksdale, who enraged Marcus Giles with a called third strike to end the inning. Giles was pulled away, but Cox was tossed after he came on the field to continue the argument.
Ortiz gave up three homers in a game for the first time since April 20, 2002, when he pitched for San Francisco. His career high is four homers. … For the fourth time in Phillies history, they led off the game with back-to-back homers. Len Dykstra and Mickey Morandini last accomplished the feat on April 16, 1996. … The NL East-leading Braves have lost three in a row for the first time since June 20-23, matching their longest skid of the season.