Final Countdown to the Playoffs: Game 6: The magic number into the playoffs is now one as the Phillies defeat the Braves, 6-2.
Behind Pat Burrell’s three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning and the solid pitching of rookie J.A. Happ and the bullpen, the Phillies have defeated the Braves, 6-2, cutting their magic number to get into the post-season down to one and to win the National League East down to four. Their lead in the East has increased to two and a half games as the Mets are unable to stop the Cubs. The Phillies took a quick 1-0 lead in the first as Chase Utley, with a runner on second and no one out, would hit a RBI double, knocking in Jimmy Rollins who has earlier doubled. The RBI would be the 100th of the season for Utley, the only Phil, other than Ryan Howard, to knock in so many runs. The Phillies would increase their lead to 2-0 in the second, as, with a runner on third and one out, Carlos Ruiz would hit into a ground out, second to first, scoring Shane Victorino, who has earlier singled, would move up to second on Pedro Feliz’s ground out, 6-3, and would go to third on Braves’ starter Jair Jurrjens’ wild pitch. The score would remain 2-0 for the next three innings as a pitchers’ duel developed between Jurrjens, who was able to slow down the Phillies’ offernse after the second inning and Phils’ starter J.A. Happ, who would be almost unhitable to the Braves’ offense, who would only be able to get two hits and a walk off of him through the first five innings. Sadly, that would come to an end in the sixth, as, with a runner on first and one man out, Kelly Johnson, would tie up the ballgame at 2-2 as he would slug an 0-1 slider, that was high in the strike zone, into the right field seats, scoring Matin Prado, who has earlier walked. One inning later, the Braves would threaten to take the lead, as with one out, Brent Lillibridge would get on base with a single to left. Jurrjens would then move him over to second with a sacrifice bunt, for the inning’s second out. Charlie Manuel would then come out of the dugout and take out Happ and replace him with Rudy Seanez, to face pinch hitter Greg Norton, who was pinch hitting for the originally announced pinch hitter, Yunel Escobar, who in turned was to pinch hit for Josh Anderson. Seanez would proceed to intentionally walk Norton, putting runners on first and second. Seanez would then get the next batter, Prado, to hit into a force out, 6-4, putting out Norton at second, for the final out of the inning. The Braves would then try again in the eighth, as Johnson would lead off the inning with a double, and then would go to third on Victorino’s fielding error. Seanez would then get Omar Infante to line out to Rollins for the inning’s first out. The next batter, Jeff Francoeur, would then hit a fielder’s choice ground ball to Rollins, who would quickly throw home, cutting down Johnson, as Ruiz blocks the plate and tags him out, for the second out of the inning, while Francoeur would be safe on first. After Manuel takes out Seanez and replaces him with Scott Eyre, Eyre would get Casey Kotchman to fly out to left for the inning’s final out. The Phillies would then retake the lead in their half of the eighth, as pinch hitter Greg Dobbs would get a pinch single off of Braves’ reliever Jeff Bennett. After Dobbs is replaced at first base by pinch runner Greg Golson, the Braves would try to pick Golson off at first. It didn’t work as Bennett would commit a throwing error, as the ball would get past Braves’ first baseman Kotchman, which would allow Golson to go from first to third. After Rollins would ground out for the inning’s first out, Utley would be intentionally walked, bringing up Jayson Werth. Werth would hit a sharp grounder to Braves’ third baseman Prado, who would then throw home in an attempt to cut down Golson. It wouldn’t work, as Golson was off on the crack of the bat, beating Braves’ catcher Clint Sammons’ tag, and scoring the go ahead run as the Phillies took a 3-2 lead, while Utley would go on to second and Werth would reach first on the fielder’s choice. Bobby Cox would then come to the mound and replace Bennett with Will Ohman. After Howard flies out for the second out of the inning, Ohman would be replaced by Julian Tavarez to pitch to Pat Burrell. With the count going to 3-1, Burrell would hit a Tavarez’s fastball into the left field seats for a three-run home run, his thirty-third home run of the year, scoring both Utley and Werth, and giving the Phillies a 6-2 lead. After Victorino follows with a triple, Tavarez would finally end the inning by getting Feliz to fly out to left. The Phillies would then hand the ball over to Ryan Madson. After Madson gets pinch hitter Ruben Gotay to fly out for the inning’s first out, he would give up a pinch single to pinch hitter Chipper Jones. Pinch hitter Brian McCann would then follow him with a deep fly ball to left that would go out of the park, but would be declared a double by the third base umpire Chad Fairchild who would claim that the ball has landed under the yellow line, making it a double and not a home run. A later umpires’ conference would uphold Fairchild’s call, as does instant reply, thus leaving the Braves with runners on second and third with one out and not a two-run homer for McCann. Madson would then buckle down and get Gregor Blanco to fly out to left for the second out of the inning, and then get Prado to ground out, 4-3, to end the game and preserve the win.
J.A. Happ would get a no-decision as he pitches a strong six and two-thirds innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits, striking out five while walking only two. Rudy Seanez would pitch a scoreless inning of relief, giving up only one hit and walking a batter. Scott Eyre would get the win as he pitches a third of an inning, giving up no runs and no hits. His record is now 5-0 (3-0 with the Phils) with an ERA of 4.30. Ryan Madson would also pitch a scoreless inning, giving up only two hits. Jair Jurrjens would also get a no-decision as he pitches seven innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and a walk. Jeff Bennett would get the lost as he pitches a third of an inning, giving up three earned runs on a hit and a walk. His record is now 3-7 with an ERA of 3.86. Will Ohman would also pitch a third of an inning, getting out the only man that he would face. Julian Tavarez would also go a third of an inning, giving up an earned run on two hits.
The Phillies would score two early runs, which J.A. Happ would hold onto brillantly until he gives up the two-run home run to Kelly Johnson in the sixth. The Phillies offense would then go back to work in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four unanswered runs, with the big blow being Pat Burrell’s three-run shot. The go ahead run that Greg Golson would score on the crack of the bat, would be his first run scored in a major league game. The bullpen would then come in and pitch two and a third innings of shut out ball, although Madson almost gave up a two-run home run to pinch hitter Brian McCann, except that the ball would drop into the seats below the yellow line under the railing in left, as confirmed later by instant replay. The Phillies are now on a roll, having won ten of their last eleven games, as they reached a season high twenty-one games over .500, the highest since their pennant winning year of 1993. The Phillies are now one game away from 90 wins, and need just one more game to guarantee a return to the playoffs.
The Phillies (89-68) will continue their series with the fourth place Braves (69-86) with a game tonight. The game will be played at Citizens Bank Park and will start at 7:05 pm Eastern. The Phillies will send to the mound their ace Cole Hamels (14-9, 3.10), who is coming off a win against the Braves on September 18, as he went six innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits, in the Phillies’ 4-3 win. Hamel will be trying for his fifteenth win of the year while trying to secure the playoff spot for the Phillies with a good outing tonight. The Braves’ starter will be Mike Hampton (2-3, 5.05), who is coming off a lost to the Phillies on September 18, as he would go seven innings, giving up four runs, only two of which were earned, in the Braves’ 4-3 lost. This is his third start against the Phillies, sporting an 0-1 record, with a no-decision. He will be trying to hold off the Phillies running into the playoff for one more night.
The Phillies are now leading the Mets by two and a half games, thanks to the Mets lost to the Cubs. The magic number to win the National League East is now at four. In the Wild Card chase, the Mets’ lead over the Brewers is now at a game, as the Brewers were idle last night, while it is at three and a half games over Houston, who were also idle last night. The Phillies will be trying to win tonight’s game to guarantee a spot in the playoffs, while trying to see if they can get Cole Hamels his fifteenth win of the season.