ATLANTA (AP)—After Cole Hamels fell one out shy of his bid for a second shutout of the Braves this season, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s emphasis turned to protecting the young left-hander for the rest of the year.
Hamels, who earned his first career shutout against the Braves on May 15, gave up his only run with two outs in the ninth, and Philadelphia beat the Braves 4-1 on Thursday night to complete its second three-game sweep at Turner Field this season.
Hamels gave up his only run on his 125th pitch. That was enough for Manuel, who brought in Tom Gordon for the final out rather than let Hamels try for his third complete game.
“I wanted him to get the shutout, but once he got to 125 pitches, you’ve got to remember he’s got the whole second half of the season,” Manuel said. “You want to keep him fresh.
“If he’d been under 120 pitches, he’d definitely have had the chance to finish the game.”
Hamels’ disappointment showed as he walked off the mound.
“It’s so hard to get a complete game,” Hamels said. “Being just a couple of pitches away, it’s frustrating.”
The Phillies hit seven homers and outscored the Braves 19-7 in the series, dropping Atlanta (40-46) a season-low six games below .500.
The NL East-leading Phillies are the first team to sweep the Braves in two straight three-game series in Atlanta in almost 20 years. San Diego swept two straight series in Atlanta in August and September of 1989.
Howard said the sweep is “definitely big” as the Phillies stretched their lead over the fourth-place Braves from four games to seven.
“The first half is coming to an end,” Howard said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re trying to give ourselves as much space as possible.”
The Braves hoped the return of Chipper Jones, Yunel Escobar and Mark Kotsay from injuries would boost their sagging offense. Martin Prado came off the disabled list to start at second base on Thursday night, but the reinforcements were of little help against Hamels (9-5).
He gave up only three hits through eight innings before a leadoff double to Jones in the ninth. Hamels still hadn’t allowed a baserunner to reach third until Brian McCann drove in Jones with a two-out double into the right-field corner.
Gordon retired Jeff Francoeur for his second save.
The slumping Francoeur heard boos as he went 0-for-4, dropping his batting average to .234.
Hamels struck out seven and walked two while giving up five hits and one run, but he didn’t look as dominant while giving up two hits and a walk in the first two innings.
“In the first inning I struggled getting my location down,” he said. “Once I got into the middle innings, I got on a roll. I got some quick outs.”
Hamels gave up four hits in a 5-0 win over the Braves in Philadelphia on May 15 for his first career shutout, and added another home shutout over Cincinnati on June 5.
Braves manager Bobby Cox said Hamels “is not gonna be an All-Star for nothing.”
“He’s one of the most dominating pitchers in the league,” Cox said.
Utley hit his team-leading 24th homer off Jair Jurrjens (8-4) in the first inning, ending Jurrjens’ streak of 24 1-3 innings without allowing an earned run.
Jurrjens also gave up homers to Howard in the sixth and Feliz in the seventh. Howard’s second homer in two games was an opposite-field shot to left.
The Phillies added another run in the fourth, when Pat Burrell led off with a double and scored on a single by Feliz.
Jurrjens gave up eight hits and four runs in seven innings, taking his first loss since May 12. He struck out six and walked one in his first career appearance against Philadelphia.
“I will be happy to face Hamels again,” Jurrjens said. “It really was fun to face him. … He was pretty awesome today.”
The Braves were only 3-for-34 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 1-for-10 against Hamels.
“We had (34) chances and three isn’t enough,” McCann said.
The last team to sweep the Braves in consecutive three-game series in Atlanta was Baltimore in 1997 and 1999. … The Braves activated Prado from the disabled list and optioned SS Brent Lillibridge to Triple-A Richmond. … Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said the team will call up LHP J.A. Happ from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to start against Johan Santana and the New York Mets on Friday. LHP R.J. Swindle was optioned to Lehigh Valley after the game.