Tonight was a bit of a homecoming for the Phillies. No, they didn't return to Citizen's Bank Park, but they did return from the American League, taking on the Braves for the first of three games. The Phillies needed a win tonight, with the Marlins encroaching on their division lead, and they made themselves right at home in Atlanta in their 8-3 victory.
Kyle Kendrick was coming off a great start in Oakland, where he tossed a career-high eight innings in a 4-0 shutout. He picked up where he left off, running his scoreless inning streak to fourteen, before surrendering three runs in the seventh.
The Phillies' offense did its part as well. Pat Burrell put the Phillies on the board in the second with a solo home run off Braves rookie Charlie Morton. The next inning, the Phillies piled on the insurance runs. Jimmy Rollins led off the third with a single, setting up a Shane Victorino line drive that skipped off the top of the right field wall for a two-run home run. The Phillies then followed with four straight singles, which resulted in a 5-0 lead with no outs and chased Morton. Buddy Carlyle entered in relief and retired the next three batters in order to get out of the jam.
The Braves bullpen kept the game within reach for the next five innings, holding the Phillies scoreless. Carlyle, in particular, was dominant with three innings pitched and five strikeouts, while allowing just one hit and no walks.
Meanwhile, Kendrick cruised until the seventh inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, pinch hitter Greg Norton hit a two-RBI double. That would be all for Kendrick, as Charlie Manuel turned to J.C. Romero to limit the damage. Romero got Gerry Blanco to ground out, then walked Kelly Johnson and Chipper Jones, setting up a Mark Teixiera RBI ground-out. Then, with the tying run in scoring position, Brian McCann grounded to second, and the Phillies escaped with a two-run lead.
The Phillies nearly built on their lead in the eighth, when a walk, an error, and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out and Victorino up. Strangely, the Braves elected to intentionally walk Victorino with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard up next. Yet, the unorthodox strategy paid off, as Will Ohman struck out both Utley and Howard and it remained a two-run game. Tom Gordon followed with a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, setting up what looked to be an exciting ninth inning.
After their recent struggles, the Phillies were probably in no mood for drama. Jayson Werth singled and later scored on a Pedro Feliz sac fly. The Phillies then loaded the bases on two walks and a single, bringing up Victorino. Victorino delivered, hitting a single into left field that scored two runs and brought the score to 8-3. Brad Lidge came in to pitch the ninth, having already warmed up in preparation for a save opportunity. Lidge allowed a one-out single before striking out Johnson and Jones to end the game.
The win, coupled with the Marlins 9-6 loss to the Nationals gives the Phillies a 1.5 game lead in the NL East and should restore some confidence to the Phillies. In the next two games, the Phillies will face more challenging starters, but with the offense seemingly clicking again, scoring twenty-four runs in the last four games, this may not be a problem.