Burrell’s homer sends Phillies past Braves, 4-3
Burrell, batting below .200 since July, hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the sixth inning and Philadelphia beat the Braves 4-3 on Thursday night to complete an unprecedented sweep of the nine-game season series in Atlanta.
“It’s that time of the year when you take pride in being able to help when it counts,” Burrell said.
The Phillies remained a half-game ahead of the Mets in the NL East with their season-best seventh straight win. New York beat Washington 7-2.
Philadelphia is the first team to sweep a season series longer than four games in Atlanta. They swept three three-game series at Turner Field by a combined score of 49-24.
“They pitched better and hit better and that’s pretty much how it’s been all year,” Braves pitcher Mike Hampton said.
The Braves weren’t even called the Braves the last time the franchise was swept at home in a season series of as many games almost 100 years ago. In 1909, the Boston Doves lost all 11 home games to the Chicago Cubs.
The history didn’t interest Braves manager Bobby Cox.
“What difference does it make?” Cox asked.
The Phillies lead the season series 13-2, their most wins against the Braves in a season with three games remaining in Philadelphia next week.
“They’ve got a good squad over there. There’s no holes,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. They pitch, they play defense and they hit. You’ve got to tip you hat, I guess.”
If the Phillies have had a weak spot during the latter part of the season it has been in left field, where Burrell hit .181 in August and .178 in September before his two hits Thursday night.
“I have struggled lately,” Burrell said. “That’s fine if you’re winning. Our starting pitching has been incredible.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he has considered giving Burrell a rest, but he noted Burrell now has 32 homers.
“When I look at a right-handed hitter who can do that, I don’t see anyone … who can take his position away,” Manuel said.
Burrell hit .275 with 23 homers and 57 RBIs before the All-Star break.
“At the first of the year he carried us,” Manuel said. “He cooled off a little, but he might be picking it up at the right time.”
Cole Hamels (14-9) gave up six hits and two runs in six innings to improve to 3-0 in four starts against the Braves this season. The left-hander is 6-2 against Atlanta in his career.
Burrell said he couldn’t explain the Phillies’ dominance of the Braves at Turner Field.
“I talked to Chipper (Jones) about that today,” Burrell said. “There have been seasons we didn’t win nine (against the Braves) all year, let alone here.”
Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save, including seven against the Braves.
Chipper Jones walked and scored on McCann’s double in the first, and the Braves tied the game in the second on Casey Kotchman’s first homer since he was acquired from Texas on July 29. Mark Teixeira, sent to the Angels in the trade, has 11 homers for Los Angeles.
The 2-2 tie lasted until the sixth, when Burrell hit a two-run homer, his 32nd, about 10 rows into the left-field seats.
Hampton gave up six hits and four runs, two earned, in seven innings.
The Braves scored an unearned run off Ryan Madson in the seventh. Kelly Johnson reached on an infield single. Jones drew his second walk and Johnson scored when shortstop Jimmy Rollins dropped McCann’s fly ball in front of Burrell in left field. It was only Rollins’ seventh error.
Burrell has five homers against the Braves this season. … Kotchman’s homer was only his sixth extra-base hit in 114 at-bats with the Braves. … The Braves announced before the game that Cox’s six coaches will return in 2009. … Johnson has a 16-game hitting streak after his infield hit, which was first ruled as a fielding error on Howard.