It wasn’t the ’27 Yankees. Actually, with Chipper Jones and Brian McCann on the bench to start the game, it wasn’t even the ’08 Braves, either. But JA Happ did it again last night. For the second time in two starts, the 25-year-old pitched well enough to help the Phils get a big win in the heat of a tight race for a division title.
Happ kept the game close and the Phils broke open a 2-2 tie with four runs in the eighth. After Greg Golson helped the Phillies create a run with his speed, Pat Burrell hit a ball out to left for a three-run homer that broke the game open.
The list of Phillies playing well these days is pretty long — long enough for some of the stars of September to be overlooked. Pitching for the third straight day, Ryan Madson made his eleventh appearance of the month last night. He hasn’t been charged with a run since August 28. With three more hits last night, Shane Victorino is 18-for-his-last-33.
The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves last night, winning 6-2 to improve to 89-68 on the season. They have won three in a row and are 21 games above .500 for the first time since 1993. They lead the Mets in the NL East by 2 1/2 games. The Mets are a game ahead of the Brewers for the Wild Card.
Happ got the start for the Phillies and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. One of the hits went for extra-bases, a two-run homer. He struck out five.
Happ threw a 1-2-3 first.
He started the second up 1-0. Omar Infante led off with a single and went to second on a passed ball. Jeff Francoeur was next and grounded to short with Infante going to third with one down. Casey Kotchman lined to short for the second out. Clint Sammons was swinging 3-0 and popped up to Howard in foul territory to end the frame.
Up 2-0, he set the Braves down in order in the third.
He struck out two in a 1-2-3 fourth.
Sammons walked with two outs in the fifth. Brent Lillibridge was next and moved Hammonds to second with a single. The pitcher Jair Jurrjens popped to Howard to set the Braves down.
Martin Prado singled with one out in the sixth. Kelly Johnson was next and the lefty hit an 0-1 pitch out to right, tying the game at 2-2. Happ struck out Infante before Francoeur singled into center, but Kotchman flew to Werth in right for the third out.
Happ started the seventh having thrown 84 pitches. He got Sammons to pop to Howard for the first out, but Lillibridge hit the first pitch of his at-bat into left for a single. Jurrjens hit for himself and bunted Lillibridge to second for the second out. Righty Yunel Escobar hit for the righty Josh Anderson and Manuel called on Seanez to pitch to Escobar. Greg Norton hit for Escobar and the Phillies put him on. With men on first and second and two down, Seanez got Prado to ground to third to set the Braves down.
Seanez returned for the eighth. Johnson led off and lined a ball into right-center. Werth made a nice effort, diving for the ball but having it go off his glove. Victorino was backing up nicely, but kicked the ball, then threw to Utley and Utley dropped the relay. Johnson wound up on third and Victorino was charged with an error. Infante lined to first for the first out. Francoeur was next, and with the infield in, hit a high chop to short with Johnson running on contact. Rollins jumped up to field it, landed and threw a strike to the plate where Ruiz tagged out the sliding Johnson for the second out. Great play by Rollins and by Ruiz — Ruiz did a fantastic job of blocking the plate and denying Johnson a part of the plate to slid into. Johnson was going to have to run Ruiz over and that’s gotta be a tough sell when you’re 19 games out of first place. Eyre came in to pitch to the lefty Kotchman and got him to fly to center for the third out.
Madson started the ninth with a 6-2 lead. Lidge wasn’t going to pitch, Madson was up when the Phils went up 3-2. Switch-hitter Ruben Gotay hit for the righty Sammons and flew to right for the first out. Switchy Chipper Jones hit for righty Brent Lillibridge and singled to left. Lefty Brian McCann hit for the pitcher Julian Tavarez and drove a ball the opposite way down the left field line. The ball hit off the line at the top of the wall and over. McCann was given, correctly, a double. With one out and men on second and third, Gregor Blanco flew to left for the second out. Prado was next and hit the ball hard but right at Utley. Utley took it and threw to first to end the game.
Great job by Manuel not to use Lidge for the third straight day given how many pitches he has thrown. Seanez, Eyre and Madson combined to go 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk. Seanez threw 22 pitches, Eyre three and Madson 13. Madson is the only guy of that group that rest should be a factor for. Madson was pitching for his third straight day, although he has thrown less than 15 pitches in each of the last two days after throwing 25 on Saturday.
The massive contribution of Madson this month has somehow escaped the attention it deserves. Madson has made 11 appearances this month and thrown 12 1/3 innings without being charged with a run. Nine hits and one walk while striking out 15.
The Phillies lineup against righty Jair Jurrjens went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Feliz plays third against the righty after the big home run on Sunday. Ruiz catches. Slumpers Burrell and Werth stay in the lineup.
Rollins led off the first with a double. Utley was next and he hit an 0-1 pitch into the right field corner for another double. Rollins scored and the Phils led 1-0. Utley was left stranded at second, though. Werth grounded to short, Howard flew to left and Burrell flew to left.
Victorino led off the second with a single and went to second when Feliz followed with a ground ball to short. He went to third on a wild pitch and the Braves brought the infield in with Ruiz at the plate. With Victorino running on contact, Ruiz hit a ground ball to short and Johnson had to take the out at first as Victorino scored to put the Phils up 2-0. Happ grounded to second for the third out.
Utley walked with one out in the third, but Werth and Howard went down behind him.
Victorino singled with one out in the fourth. Feliz hit into a double-play behind him.
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the fifth.
The game was tied at 2-2 when they hit in the sixth. Werth singled to center with one out and stole second as Howard struck out for the second out. Burrell flew to center for the third out.
They went 1-2-3 in the seventh.
Dobbs hit for Eyre to start the eighth and singled into center. Golson ran for Dobbs at first. Jeff Bennett tried to pick Golson off of first, but threw the ball away and Golson went all the way to third. Rollins grounded to second for the first out and Utley was walked intentionally. Werth hit a ground ball to third and Golson took off on contact. Prado made a strong throw home, but Golson slid in safely. Sammons didn’t do nearly as good a job of blocking the plate as Ruiz had done in the top of the inning, but Prado’s throw wasn’t as perfect as Rollins had been. Howard flew to center for the second out before Burrell got ahead 3-0 and then hit a 3-1 pitch out to left, putting the Phils up 6-2. Victorino was next and lined a triple into right-center. Feliz flew to left for the third out.
Rollins was 1-for-4 with a double. He played a better game than that, though, getting the Phillies started in the first and making a big defensive play to throw Johnson out in the eighth.
Utley 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and an RBI. He has at least one hit in 14 of his last 15 games.
Werth 1-for-4 with an RBI. 2-for-his-last-18 with two singles.
Howard 0-for-4 and left five men on base.
Burrell 1-for-4 with a three-run homer. The home run was his 33rd on the year. He hit 37 in 2002, which was his career high.
Victorino 3-for-4 with a triple. He’s hitting 351/390/532 this month, but without the impact you would expect. He’s hitting behind the slumping Burrell and, often, ahead of Feliz.
Feliz 0-for-4 and left three men on base. 2-for-his-last-21.
Ruiz 0-for-3 with an RBI. Fantastic job to block the plate in the eighth.
Cole Hamels (14-9, 3.10) faces lefty Mike Hampton (2-3, 5.05) or, less likely, lefty Jo-Jo Reyes (3-11, 5.74) tonight. The Braves and Phillies web sites both list Reyes as the starting pitcher, but he started on Friday against the Mets. Hampton faced the Phils on Thursday and allowed four runs over seven innings. Only two of the runs were earned. Over his last two starts, Reyes has gone 5 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs on 12 hits (including four homers) and two walks. He has a 9.00 ERA since the All-Star break. Righties are hitting .315 against him for the season. Hamels started Thursday’s game against the Braves in Atlanta and allowed two runs over six innings. Opponents are hitting .271 against him in September — that’s higher than any month of his career with the exception of June, 2006, when they hit .295 against him.