PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The Atlanta Braves are heading home after a successful road trip.
The Braves went 7-2 on the road trip that also took them to San Diego and St. Louis.
“We’re anxious to get home,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “It was a tough trip, but we got some important things done. We’re trying to get there.”
Atlanta starter Tim Hudson added, “It was a huge road trip for us. It really says something about what we have in this locker room.”
On the trip, LaRoche hit .394 (15-for-38) with six homers, raising his season totals to .269 and 19 home runs.
“We’re getting it back, this was a huge road trip for us,” LaRoche said. “Personally, I haven’t changed a thing. I’ve just stayed aggressive.”
Rookie Cole Hamels struck out a career-high 12 in 5 1-3 innings, Chase Utley extended his personal-best hitting streak to 24 games and David Bell homered and drove in three runs for Philadelphia, which has lost four of six.
Newly acquired closer Bob Wickman pitched the ninth, converting his first save opportunity with the Braves. He converted 15 of 18 save opportunities with Cleveland.
LaRoche continued his torrid hitting at Citizens Bank Park where he is hitting .362 (21-for-58) with five homers and 11 RBIs in 19 career games.
“It’s a good hitter’s park, it always seems to be close, high-scoring games here,” LaRoche said.
Hudson (8-8) pitched 5 2-3 innings to post his second straight win. He gave up four runs—two earned—and six hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
Hudson struggled in the sixth with cramps in the fingers on his pitching hand. He said the injury wasn’t serious.
“Just a little bad luck,” Hudson said.
Hamels (2-5) was masterful through five innings but labored in the sixth en route to his fifth loss in his last six decisions. He gave up seven runs and six hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Hamels struck out the side in the first, third and fourth innings. All 12 of his strikeouts came in the first five innings. The Braves first four hitters were 0-for-8 with eight strikeouts over that stretch.
Cox was impressed.
“He’s really tough and has stardom written all over him,” Cox said. “He’s going to win a ton of games.”
Hamels gave up two hits in the first five innings, but they were costly as LaRoche and Pratt connected for back-to-back home runs in the second.
LaRoche lofted a flyball into the seats in left for his 18th homer. Pratt followed with a long drive to left-center for his third home run.
Hamels fell apart in the sixth. Marcus Giles drew a leadoff walk and scored on Edgar Renteria’s RBI double. One out later, Jeff Francoeur ripped a RBI single and Matt Diaz beat out an infield hit. LaRoche followed with a three-run homer—his 20th—to right field.
“My frustration level couldn’t be any higher,” said Hamels, who made his 11th career start. “I’ve just got to learn new things up here. I keep saying that over and over. It’s a different ball game up here.”
Philadelphia cut the lead to 2-1 in the third on Bobby Abreu’s RBI single.
The Phillies chased Hudson in the sixth with Bell’s RBI single, Jimmy Rollins’ RBI groundout and Mike Lieberthal scoring on a wild pitch that made the score 7-4. Reliever Macay McBride ended the threat by striking out Abreu with two runners in scoring position.
After Atlanta added two runs in the top of the seventh, Philadelphia answered when Bell roped a two-run homer to left-center, his sixth, to make it 9-6.
Philadelphia will try to regroup as they finish off a homestand with three against Arizona and five against Florida.
“The two series coming up are very big,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s time for us to get going if we’re going to go (to the postseason)”
Utley’s 24-game hitting streak is tops in the majors in 2006. … The Braves have hit back-to-back homers seven times and LaRoche has three multihomer games this season. … The Phillies’ rookie record for strikeouts in a game is held by Jack Sanford (13) in 1957. … 3B Chipper Jones (left oblique) and CF Andruw Jones (back) are listed as day-to-day.