Braves 8, Phillies 4

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The team to beat in the NL East was simply beat up.

Chuck James pitched five solid innings, Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer and the Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep with an 8-4 victory over Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.

When Jimmy Rollins boldly proclaimed in January that the Phillies should be favorites to win the division, the three-time All-Star shortstop certainly didn’t expect an 0-3 start at home.

Meanwhile, the Braves are 3-0 for the first time since opening with seven straight wins in 1994.

“We’ll be OK,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s just a matter of us putting a good game together.”

Adam Eaton (0-1) was roughed up in his first start since signing a $24.5 million, three-year contract with the Phillies, who selected him in the first round of the 1996 amateur draft and traded him to San Diego four years later. The right-hander allowed eight runs—seven earned—and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings.

James (1-0) gave up one run and six hits, striking out five.

The Braves rallied late and won the first two games in extra innings. They put this one away with six runs in the fifth, though they made it difficult with five walks in the ninth.

Macay McBride walked the bases loaded and Chad Paronto walked in two runs before Rafael Soriano retired Carlos Ruiz on a popup to shortstop to end the game and record his first save with the Braves.

“It’s enormous for us to get off to a good start,” Johnson said. “Everyone’s been looking at the Mets and Phillies so it’s good to set a tone.”

Eaton made two crucial mistakes to put the Phillies in a three-run hole in the fifth. First, he walked James with one out. Then, he gave up a two-run homer to Johnson on an 0-2 pitch.

Eaton completely unraveled after getting the second out. Chipper Jones singled and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI double. Brian McCann walked and Jeff Francoeur chased Eaton with an RBI single that gave the Braves a 6-1 lead. Scott Thorman greeted rookie Joe Bisenius with a two-run double that made it 8-1.

The Phillies entered the season with high expectations after falling short of the NL wild-card berth in the final weekend the last two years. They were hoping for a strong start after going 10-14 each of the past two Aprils.

Instead, they’re already three games behind the Mets and Braves with six games upcoming at Florida and New York.

“Are we pressing? I think it’s too early for that,” Eaton said. “We’re looking forward to a good season. I don’t think three games is going to make or break us.”

A throwing error on first baseman Ryan Howard set up Atlanta’s two runs in the first. With one out and a runner on first, Chipper Jones hit a grounder to Howard. Trying to turn a double play, Howard threw the ball into left field. After Andruw Jones walked to load the bases, McCann sliced a two-run single to left field.

Pat Burrell’s RBI double in the fourth cut it to 2-1, but the Phillies stranded a runner at third base with one out.

Manuel put Chase Utley back in the No. 3 spot in the lineup and moved Howard back to the cleanup spot after surprisingly flip-flopping them on opening day.

Notes

Rollins plans to wear No. 42 on April 15, honoring the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. … The Braves hadn’t swept the Phillies on the road since April 22-24, 2005. … The Phillies were swept by St. Louis in a season-opening three-game series at home last year. … Eaton struggled in the spring, posting a 7.91 ERA. … McCann had six RBIs in the series. … Phillies reliever Clay Condrey struck out the first five batters he faced and pitched two scoreless innings. … A crowd of 30,062 turned out on a blustery day, though most were gone before snow flurries arrived.

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