September 27, 2007

Phillies Win! Screw the Muts!

Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell hit two-run home runs and rookie Kyle Kendrick pitched six solid innings, as the Philadelphia Phillies moved into a tie for the NL East lead with a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Jeff Francoeur greeted Phillies closer Brett Myers with a leadoff homer in the ninth and Matt Diaz reached base on a one-out single. Myers, however, got pinch-hitter Yunel Escobar to line out and then struck out Kelly Johnson to move Philadelphia into a first-place tie with the reeling New York Mets, who lost 3-0 to St. Louis on Thursday.

The Phillies, who were seven games back of the first-place Mets as recently as September 12, have not reached the postseason since 1993.

Philadelphia hosts Washington to close out the season this weekend, while the Mets have three games at home against Florida.

Howard hit his 44th home run of the season while Kendrick (10-4) gave up three runs on six hits for the Phillies, who have won 11 of their last 14. Myers escaped trouble in the ninth for his 21st save of the season.

Braves starter John Smoltz (14-8) was tagged for seven hits and six runs -- five earned -- through just four innings of work. The right-hander did strike out eight without walking a batter.

Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning for Atlanta.

Philadelphia took advantage of a pair of fielding errors by Atlanta in the first inning to jump out to a 4-0 lead.

Jimmy Rollins started the inning with a single and Shane Victorino followed with a perfectly-placed bunt down the left line. Smoltz tried to make a play on the ball but his throw sailed wide as Rollins scored and Victorino reached third.

Chase Utley ripped a line drive that bounced off the glove Teixeira, allowing Victorino to cross home plate. Ryan Howard then stepped to the plate and smoked a 2-2 offering from Smoltz into the right field bleachers to make it 4-0.

The Phillies added to their lead in third as Aaron Rowand reached base on a two-out double and Burrell connected on his 30th home run of the season to make it 6-0.

Kendrick, meanwhile, tossed five shutout innings before running into trouble in the sixth. Edgar Renteria singled with one out and Jones followed with his 29th home run of the season to get Atlanta on the board. Teixeira's 30th homer of the season brought the Braves within three, but Kendrick retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Game Notes

With a third inning strikeout at the hands of Smoltz, Howard struck out for the 196th time this season, setting the major's single-season strikeout record. Cincinnati's Adam Dunn set the previous record in 2004...Smoltz hadn't allowed more than two runs in his previous four starts, going 2-0 over that span...Atlanta and Philadelphia split the season series 9-9.


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