Phillies lose more ground in NL East in 5-1 loss to Braves

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ATLANTA (AP)—Maybe it was the heat. Perhaps it was carryover from a bad loss to the Marlins. Whatever it was, Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand couldn’t make contact, and the Philadelphia Phillies lost again.

Howard and Rowand combined to go 0-for-7 with five strikeouts and the Phillies lost 5-1 to the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

Philadelphia, only two games out of first place four days ago, suddenly is five back in the NL East, and last week’s optimism is fading as the deficit grows.

“We’ve got to find a way to recreate some momentum here and turn this into a respectable trip,” Jamie Moyer (12-11) said after giving up four runs in 5 2-3 innings.

The Phillies swept New York in a four-game series last week to pull to within two games of the Mets. Since then, they’ve lost three of four, including two of three at Florida.

“Those four wins against New York don’t mean as much at this point,” Moyer said.

Manager Charlie Manuel suggested the Phillies hadn’t recovered from Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Marlins, when Philadelphia blew a 5-0 lead.

“I’d say some of the game yesterday carried over to today,” Manuel said, adding he is worried about the growing gap between the Mets and his team.

“We’re losing ground with 25 games to play,” Manuel said. “Yeah, of course we do (worry).”

Added Moyer: “You can’t make up five games until you make up one game. You can’t look down the road.”

The Braves recovered after being swept by New York in a three-game weekend series, but they are still 7 1/2 behind the Mets.

“We’re gonna just have to run a streak here, see what happens,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox.

Cormier did not allow a home run for the first time in seven starts. He had given up 13 homers in 32 innings before Monday’s start, but he relied on his curveball to hold the Phillies to only four hits—including three to Chase Utley—and one run in 5 2-3 innings.

“I built on it last start, threw it a lot more, and today that was the pitch I went to when I needed it,” Cormier said. “It was a good one today.”

Cormier (2-4) struck out five with one walk in his second straight win.

“I feel like I’m where I need to be,” Cormier said. “You’re not always going to have the best outing of your life, but it feels good to get a win today.”

Brian McCann hit a two-run double in a three-run fourth inning as the Braves snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided falling to .500 for the first time since June 24.

Peter Moylan, Manny Acosta, Tyler Yates and Rafael Soriano combined to pitch 3 1-3 hitless innings for Atlanta.

Moyer struck out seven but gave up nine hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked two batters while suffering his first loss in three starts against Atlanta this season.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Utley doubled to right and scored on Pat Burrell’s single to left.

Philadelphia’s only other serious threat came in the sixth, when Burrell popped out to end the inning with runners on first and third.

“It wasn’t our day,” Utley said. “We didn’t swing the bats very well. … Playing today’s game in warm weather didn’t help. The heat wears on you.”

The Braves scored three runs on three hits off Moyer in the bottom of the fourth. McCann’s bases-loaded double to the right-field wall drove in Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur. Andruw Jones scored on Kelly Johnson’s fly ball to shallow center when Aaron Rowand’s throw to the plate sailed over the head of catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Pinch-hitter Brayan Pena, in his first at-bat since he was recalled from Triple-A Richmond on Saturday, drove in McCann from third with a two-out single up the middle in the sixth. Pena beat shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ throw to first, giving Atlanta a 4-1 lead and knocking Moyer out of the game.

Atlanta added a run off Tom Gordon in the seventh. Gordon walked Matt Diaz and gave up singles to Chipper Jones and Teixeira to load the bases. Diaz scored on Francoeur’s fly ball to deep right. ^Notes: Burrell, who hit into a double play in the first inning, was 0-for-12 on the road trip before his RBI single in the fourth. … 3B Abraham Nunez remained in the game after he fouled a ball off the plate and was hit in the face in the sixth. … Howard has struck out 16 times in his last 27 at-bats dating back to Aug. 29.

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