Friday, August 14, 2009

Howard's homerun beats Braves

Joe Blanton (2 K, 1 BB, 7 H) and Jair Jurrjens (6 K, 1 BB, 5 H) dueled admirably, giving their respective teams seven innings apiece of two-run ball. Blanton's cause was aided by a brilliant defensive performance by the Phillies' not-so-secret weapon, Shane Victorino.

Things got hairy in the top of the eighth when Ben Francisco led off with a double against Mike Gonzalez. Luckily, the Phillies decided to waste an at bat from one of their best players when they allowed Jimmy Rollins to bunt Francisco over to third. Victorino and Utley popped out in succession to end the inning.

But the bullpen's high-wire act was short-lived. Ryan Howard gave the Phillies the game-winning run in the top of the ninth with a solo homerun off of RHP Rafael Soriano. Despite the lefty-leaning heart of the the Phillies order (Utley, Howard, Ibanez) likely coming up in the ninth, Cox opted use LHP Mike Gonzalez the inning prior to face righties Ben Francisco, Jimmy Rollins, and switch-hitter Shane Victorino.

The Braves were unable to mount a counterpunch in the eighth against Ryan Madson and got two runners on against Lidge in the ninth, but Nate McLouth flied out to deep left to end the game.

The Braves now have a serious uphill battle to win the series. Tomorrow will be the hardest part. The Kawakami/Hamels pitching matchup heavily favors the Phillies. The Braves now trail the Phillies by six games.

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