Braves rally to stun Phillies 9-8, scoring 4 in eighth and 3 in ninth
ATLANTA (AP)—The Braves will have a hard time making the playoffs, despite their most remarkable comeback of the season. So they went ahead and celebrated as though this one was for a championship.
The Phillies squandered leads of 5-0 and 8-2, giving up four runs in the eighth and watching in disbelief as Diaz’s liner skidded off the tip of Chris Robertson’s glove with the bases loaded.
“I’m not believing that,” said Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, whose team remained five games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. “I totally can’t believe that. I’ve never seen that—ever. It’s mind-boggling.”
The Braves’ chances looked slim when Brett Myers (3-6) retired the first two hitters in the ninth with an 8-6 lead. But Jeff Francoeur and Martin Prado hustled to beat out infield hits, and Yunel Escobar walked to load the bases.
That brought up Diaz, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He went the opposite way with a liner that eluded Roberson’s lunging attempt and stuck at the base of the wall.
Roberson hit the relay man, but the throw home was up the first-base line. Escobar slid across with the winning run, thrusting his right index finger toward the stands. Diaz, who had just rounded second, pumped his fists and was mobbed by his teammates in a wild pile beside the pitcher’s mound.
“When I got it in the air, I thought I got too much,” Diaz said. “I didn’t realize how shallow he was playing.”
Manuel remained on the top step of the dugout for at least a minute, watching the celebration and subtly shaking his head. Finally, he headed for the clubhouse.
“It didn’t look good,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “But we did it.”
The Braves still must face reality. They won for just the second time in six games on a crucial homestand against their top two rivals in the NL East, having been swept by the Mets last weekend.
Atlanta is 7 1/2 games behind New York, which lost 7-0 to Cincinnati.
“Whatever happens, we’re going to play till the end,” Francoeur said. “That was the most exciting game of the year for me.”
Braves starter Tim Hudson allowed five runs in the first two innings, and the Phillies added three more in the seventh off Oscar Villareal for an 8-2 lead. Rafael Soriano (3-3) got the win with a scoreless ninth.
Atlanta sent 10 hitters to the plate in the eighth, scoring four runs off Tom Gordon. But it looked like another frustrating finish for the Braves when Kelly Johnson popped out on a 2-0 pitch from Myers with the bases loaded, then Chipper Jones hit a lazy fly to left for the third out, slamming his bat in disgust.
Gordon blamed himself for letting the Braves back in the game.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “We need to win those kind of games. I take responsibility for it.”
Myers struck out Mark Teixeira to start the ninth, and Brayan Pena grounded out to first. Francoeur hit a grounder past third that shortstop Jimmy Rollins fielded in the outfield grass, giving him no chance to throw out the runner. Prado followed with a high hopper off the plate, just beating Myers’ throw to first, which pulled Ryan Howard off the bag anyway.
“When Prado got that base hit off home plate, I thought, ‘Uh oh, something’s going to happen here,”’ Atlanta’s Willie Harris said.
He was right. Diaz came through with the biggest hit of all, giving the Braves a glimmer of hope in the playoff race. The team that won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 has only 22 games left to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“It happened so fast,” Myers said. “The game got out of control: cheap hits, balls falling in.”
Hudson gave up 11 hits in five innings. The remarkable comeback kept him from his third straight loss and kept the Braves (71-69) above .500.
“This is the kind of win we’ve been needing for a long time,” Hudson said.
Pat Burrell hit his 25th homer in the second, a two-out drive over the center-field wall that put Philadelphia ahead 5-0.
Kyle Kendrick breezed through the first five innings, allowing just three hits. The Braves finally broke through in the sixth, knocking out the rookie with three straight hits that included Harris’ leadoff homer.
But there were more comebacks to come.
“We had no business winning this game as lousy as we played the first few innings,” Chipper Jones said. “We got lucky.”
Kendrick’s five-inning stint was the shortest of his surprising debut season. … Braves SS Edgar Renteria took grounders before the game and expects to come off the disabled list before Friday’s game against the Nationals. … Hudson has allowed 14 runs and 26 hits over his last three starts, covering 16 innings. … Braves C Brian McCann left in the eighth after tweaking his left ankle—which has bothered him most of the season—while running the bases. He is day to day.