Phillies 4, Braves 0
ATLANTA (AP)—The Philadelphia Phillies are hanging tough in the wild-card race—and they aren’t giving up on winning the NL East, either.
Keeping the heat on Atlanta, Jon Lieber pitched eight scoreless innings and the Phillies scored four runs off Tim Hudson in the ninth to take another series from the Braves with a 4-0 victory Thursday.
Jimmy Rollins led off the afternoon with a single, extending his hitting streak to a post-1900 franchise-record 27 games. Philadelphia finished strong, too, as pinch-hitters Michael Tucker and Shane Victorino came through with two outs in the ninth.
Tucker hit an opposite-field RBI single to break up the scoreless duel, and Victorino followed with a three-run homer to right.
“When I saw (Jeff) Francoeur stop running, I knew I had hit my first major league homer,” said Victorino, a September callup. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Indeed. The Phillies won two of three at Turner Field, closing within four games of the Braves with nine left. Philadelphia has at least made things interesting by beating Atlanta five times in seven games over the last week and a half.
“Our whole thought process” is on winning the division, Lieber said. “That’s all that’s on our minds.”
As for the backup plan, Philadelphia remained two games behind Houston in the wild-card race. The Astros completed a sweep in Pittsburgh with a 2-1 victory over the Pirates.
“It’s more or less just winning games at this point,” Tucker said. “If you win games, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing—at least you give yourself a chance. That’s all we’re trying to do right now.”
Manager Bobby Cox was booed when he came out to make a pitching change after Victorino’s homer. The home fans were upset that he let Hudson (13-9) hit in the bottom of the eighth with the potential go-ahead run at third and only one out.
Hudson grounded out weakly in front of the plate, and Rafael Furcal’s sharp liner was backhanded by David Bell to end the threat. Then, the Phillies took advantage of a fading Hudson, who threw 116 pitches.
Defending his decision, Cox said of Hudson, “He can hit. He can squeeze, too. He could have gone two more innings.”
The Braves didn’t do much against Lieber (16-12), who has beaten them three times this season.
“We couldn’t generate any offense,” Cox said. “Most of that was due to Lieber. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”
Andruw Jones, mired in a 1-for-23 slump, led off the second with a single and moved up on Adam LaRoche’s sacrifice bunt, only to get stranded there. Furcal doubled with two outs in the third, but Marcus Giles popped out to short center.
Lieber struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone.
“That’s a good lineup over there,” Phillies catcher Todd Pratt said. “I think he made only one mistake all day, the double by Langerhans.”
Rollins singled to right on the second pitch of the game. He had been tied with Chuck Klein, who had a pair of 26-game hitting streak in 1930.
Hudson faced the minimum over the next four innings, the only hit—Abreu’s fourth-inning single—erased by a double play. But the Phillies threatened again in the sixth, once again sparked by Rollins.
The leadoff hitter doubled off the wall in right with one out, and Lofton walked. The runners moved up on Utley’s grounder, and Hudson walked Abreu intentionally to load the bases.
Burrell hit a liner up the middle on the very next pitch, but second baseman Giles had it played perfectly and made the inning-ending catch. Disgusted, Burrell slung his bat toward dugout.
In the end, Hudson was the disgusted one.
“I felt like threw the ball well, but a loss is a loss,” he said. “We need to come out tomorrow, play hard and bring some playoff-type baseball, bring some passion.”
Lieber’s career record against the Braves is only 5-7, but he has pitched much better in recent years. In his last eight starts, he has given up only 12 earned runs in 59 innings (1.83 ERA). … Lieber hasn’t given up a home run to the Braves since 2000, when he was pitching for the Chicago Cubs. Atlanta’s Andrew Galarraga homered off the right-hander at Wrigley Field. … Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.