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Rollins' defensive gem preserves Phillies' win over Braves

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA - A great defensive play by veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins was instrumental in helping the Philadelphia Phillies break their three-game losing streak Saturday.

The ninth-inning fielding gem by Rollins allowed the Phillies to withstand a last-ditch rally and defeat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 at Turner Field.

Philadelphia led 5-1 in the ninth, but closer Jonathan Papelbon surrendered a three-run homer to Justin Upton, his 27th home run of the season, with two outs. Freddie Freeman followed with a single and Papelbon walked Evan Gattis, bringing Chris Johnson, the National League's No. 2 hitter to the plate with the tying run at second base.

Johnson smashed a ball that appeared headed for the hole between shortstop and third base, but Rollins dove for the ball, got to his feet and fired to first in time to nip Johnson for the game-ending out.

"That was a heckuva play to end the game," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was a perfect one-hop throw to get him."

The Braves were trying to orchestrate their 26th last at-bat victory.

"Jimmy made a great play," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He stopped the run from scoring and he threw Chris out at first base."

Luis Garcia (1-1) was credited with the victory. He followed starter Ethan Martin with two innings of scoreless relief, striking out three. It was the sixth straight scoreless appearance for Garcia, a 10-inning stretch that has seen his ERA fall from 5.48 to 3.73.

Michael Stutes, Jake Diekman and B.J. Rosenberg followed and each pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the Phillies before giving way to Papelbon.

"The bullpen was good," Sandberg said. "We mixed and matched the rest of the game and Cameron Rupp was outstanding behind the plate. He must have had 20 blocks back there."

The loss put the Braves chances of earning homefield advantage in jeopardy. They trail St. Louis by one game and must now win the season finale and hope the Cardinals lose to the Cubs. That would give both teams 96 wins, but Atlanta would win the tiebreaker based on winning the season series against St. Louis.

Philadelphia, which had produced only one run in losing the first two games of the series, collected 13 hits. Cesar Hernandez had a career-high four hits. The Phillies scored five runs for the first time since Sept. 17, a stretch of nine games.

Atlanta starter Mike Minor (13-9) recovered from a shaky start, which saw him allow two runs in the first inning. Those were the only runs he allowed in six innings, and he struck out six. But Minor, expected to be the Game 2 playoff starter, failed for the fifth time to win a game in September.

"Mike did OK," Gonzalez said. "He gave us a chance to win the game."

Minor was yanked early so the Braves could give the bullpen some work before the postseason, but that plan didn't work out so well. Jordan Walden pitched the seventh and got tagged for two runs. The Phillies scored another run in the eighth off Anthony Varvaro.

Phillies starter Ethan Martin pitched only three innings. The rookie had made seven relief appearances since his last start on Sept. 3 against Washington. He allowed one run and four hits, striking out two and walking one.

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning. Hernandez singled and Jimmy Rollins doubled. They scored on a two-out single by rookie Cameron Rupp, his first major-league RBI.

The Braves cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first when Jason Heyward singled, went to third on Upton's bloop to right field and scored on Freeman's sacrifice fly to center. It was Freeman's 108th RBI, the most by a Braves player since Andruw Jones drove in 129 in 2006.

NOTES: The Braves rested C Brian McCann for the second game because of a minor groin pull. McCann may catch a few innings on Sunday and get a couple of at-bats, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ... The Braves said 2B Dan Uggla and OF B.J. Upton likely will be included on the postseason roster despite their sub-.200 batting averages. ... Injured Philadelphia 1B Ryan Howard (knee) has joined the team for the final series in Atlanta. He is not active and has spent the last two weeks rehabbing in Clearwater, Fla. ... The Phillies send former Braves farmhand Zach Miner (0-1, 3.08) to the mound in the season finale to face rookie Julio Teheran (13-8, 3.09).
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