Ryan Howard, J.A. Happ keep Phillies winning
ATLANTA (AP)—J.A. Happ waited four years for a legitimate chance to join Philadelphia’s starting rotation.
After winning his first career decision, maybe the 6-foot-6 rookie earned another a chance to start in five days.
Ryan Howard drove in the first run in Philadelphia’s four-run first inning, and Happ pitched six scoreless innings to help the Phillies earn their season-high sixth straight win, 6-1 over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
“It’s awesome,” Happ said. “I understand the kind of position we’re in. I wanted to keep momentum on our side.”
Howard, bidding to win his second NL MVP award in three years, has 29 RBIs in his last 21 games and 137 this season to lead the majors.
Philadelphia remained a half-game ahead of New York in the NL East after the Mets beat the Nationals.
Happ (1-0) allowed three hits, walked one and struck out two in his fourth career start and first since getting no decision July 9 in Philadelphia’s 4-2 win over St. Louis. His performance made manager Charlie Manuel glad he chose Happ over struggling Kyle Kendrick.
“I didn’t know what I was going to get,” Manuel said. “He’s basically just looking for a chance.”
Chad Durbin pitched the next 1 2-3 innings before a walk to Chipper Jones gave the Braves two baserunners in the eighth. J.C. Romero needed just two pitches, however, to retire Brian McCann on an infield pop up.
The Braves, who have lost two straight and 23 of 35, didn’t get a runner in scoring position until Casey Kotchman’s leadoff double in the fifth.
“I thought he threw good,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of Happ.
Recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the third time this season on Sept. 1, Happ improved to 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts, far better than his work in three relief appearances, a span of 6 1-3 innings in which he has no record and 9.95 ERA.
“If you give a guy a chance, you don’t know how he’s going to react,” Manuel said. “Heck, Columbus took the chance.”
Happ only embarrassed himself in his debut last year, losing to the Mets after allowing three homers and five runs in four innings. After Philadelphia drafted him in the third round of 2004, Happ opened his fourth straight year in the minors, this time as a non-roster invitee to spring training.
“I had a terrible bullpen before the game. But I felt good” after the four-run first, he said.
The Phillies won their eighth straight at Turner Field to become the first visiting team with that many consecutive victories in Atlanta since Cincinnati had a seven-game streak in 1980.
They took a 4-0 lead in the first off Jair Jurrjens, using the rookie’s early control problems and his season-long difficulty in holding runners.
After Howard’s RBI single made it 1-0, the Phillies led 2-0 when Jayson Werth stole third and scored when catcher Brian McCann threw the ball into left field.
Carlos Ruiz’s two-run single ended Jurrjens’ 43-pitch inning.
Jurrjens (13-10) gave up four runs, five hits and five walks in five innings. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each stole a base for the Phillies, pushing Jurrjens’ season total allowed to 27, most in the majors.
Three walks in the first didn’t exactly help Jurrjens.
“I was trying to attack Jayson, but I lost the strike zone,” Jurrjens said. “I wasn’t getting the borderline calls because I was wild. It was a big, big mistake walking him.”
Jones is hitting .365 after going 1-for-3 with a walk to increase his lead over St. Louis’ Albert Pujols by 11 points for the majors’ best batting average. Pujols went 0-for-4 at Cincinnati. … Jones has reached base safely in 40 straight games. … With a single off Durbin in the eighth, Atlanta 2B Kelly Johnson has hit safely in 15 straight games. … Braves LHP Tom Glavine plans to begin exercises that use a baseball as a weight on Thursday, exactly four months since he underwent season-ending elbow surgery. … Philadelphia improved to 12-2 against the Braves this year, tying the 1956 and ’65 Phillies for the club’s single-season victories over Atlanta.
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