Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Cole Hamels turned in eight strong innings and Carlos Ruiz knocked in a run as Philadelphia turned back Atlanta, 3-1, in the opener of a key NL East clash from Citizens Bank Park.
“For us, it’s just another game, another stepping stone,” said Hamels of the Phillies, who are keeping their eyes focused on a division crown.
Hamels (12-10) won his career-best fifth straight start, scattering six hits and one run while fanning six with one walk. Brad Lidge worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts for his 24th save.
Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez added an RBI each for the Phillies, who won their eighth straight game and increased their lead to four games over Atlanta in the division.
“How do I feel? I feel good about it, but we’ve got a game coming up tomorrow,” said Phils manager Charlie Manuel when asked how he felt about his club increasing its division lead. “I’ll feel good when we’ve got a four-run lead and a four-game lead with three to play.”
In addition, Philadelphia reached the 90-win plateau faster than any other club in the Senior Circuit and shrunk its magic number for clinching the division to eight with a victory in the first edition of a three-game set.
Derrek Lee collected a pair of hits and Brian McCann posted an RBI double for the Braves, who were coming off a road sweep of the Mets.
Making his major-league debut in place of the injured Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy (0-1) was charged in the loss for four hits and three runs — one earned — with three walks over 4 1/3 frames.
The Phillies moved ahead to stay thanks to a miscue in the home fifth. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward misplayed Shane Victorino’s liner into a three- base error to start the frame. Polanco’s grounder to first brought him in for a 2-1 contest. After a Chase Utley single, Beachy was pulled for Eric O’Flaherty.
“The ball went into the wind. It knuckled off the bat. I got a great jump off the bat. I didn’t want to lollygag it, wanted to get over as quickly as possible,” Heyward said of his approach to the eventual key error. “The wind just took it further out of my reach.”
Utley then stole second and went to third on McCann’s bad throw ahead of a Howard walk. Jayson Werth walked to load the bases and an Ibanez grounder made it 3-1. Peter Moylan was summoned and fanned Ruiz swinging to end the frame.
Hamels ended the sixth by inducing a 4-6-3 double play from Martin Prado, then shrugged off a leadoff hit from Lee in the seventh. He turned aside the Braves in order in the eighth to complete his outing.
Lidge used a sharp slider to keep Atlanta off-kilter in the ninth, fanning Heyward and Lee around a Prado fly out.
Atlanta jumped on top in the second. Lee singled and McCann scalded a ball off the top of the wall in right for a run-scoring double and 1-0 lead. Matt Diaz followed with a base hit to put runners on the corners, but a strikeout of Alex Gonzalez and double-play grounder from Melky Cabrera ended the inning.
Philly countered in the home half on a two-out RBI double by Ruiz. Ryan Howard stroked a leadoff double and moved to third on a one-out grounder from Ibanez.
Hamels improved to 9-4 lifetime against the Braves…The 26-year-old lefty has given up just two earned runs during his five-start win streak…Lee fell to 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts when facing Lidge…Philadelphia has won 22 of its last 27 games against NL East clubs…Jurrjens developed soreness in his right knee during a bullpen session on Friday and Atlanta was concerned enough to hold him out of the opener…Beachy was named the Braves’ Double-A pitcher of the year for 2010. He appeared in 27 games there, starting six, and compiled a 3-1 record while pitching to a 1.47 earned-run average. The 24- year-old was then promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett and went 2-0 in seven starts (eight games) with 48 strikeouts and six walks.