Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Roy Halladay became the first 20-game winner in the National League with seven solid innings while Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer, as the Philadelphia Phillies downed the Atlanta Braves, 5- 3, at Citizens Bank Park.
Halladay (20-10) allowed three runs on seven hits for the red-hot Phillies, who have won nine straight games and increased their lead atop the NL East to five games over the Braves. Raul Ibanez drove in the other two runs for Philadelphia, which now has a magic number of six to clinch the division.
“It’s definitely special (to win 20 games), but it’s secondary to me with us trying to get into the playoffs,” said Halladay. “Finishing these last few weeks strong has been then priority. To be able to pitch in meaningful games at this point in the season makes all the difference.”
Halladay is the Phillies’ first 20-game winner since Steve Carlton went 23-11 in a Cy Young winning year of 1982. He is also the first Phillies right- hander to win at least 20 games in a season since Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts in 1955.
Freddie Freeman hit a solo home run for the Braves, who have dropped the first two of this three-game series on the heels of a three-game win streak.
Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (3-2) suffered the loss after he lasted only 2 1/3 innings and surrendered three runs on seven hits. Atlanta, though, still leads the wild card standings by one game over San Diego, which defeated the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
“We only got 2 1/3 innings from our starter, and it was hard to work around that,” said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox.
The Phillies opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning. Placido Polanco worked a leadoff walk and Chase Utley singled, which brought Ryan Howard to the plate. Howard fouled off several pitches with a full count, but eventually lined out to right field. Werth was next, and he belted a fastball into the seats in left-center field for a 3-0 lead.
Ibanez followed with a double to the corner in left field, and that spelled the end of Minor’s night. Cristhian Martinez replaced Minor on the mound and he struck out two batters to get out of the inning.
Atlanta cut its deficit to 3-1 in the top of the fifth. Alex Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and Rick Ankiel followed with a single to left field. With runners on the corners, pinch-hitter Eric Hinske chopped a grounder to second base for what appeared to be a routine double play. After the out at second, the throw by shortstop Wilson Valdez hit the sliding Ankiel on the hand and ricocheted toward the dugout area as Gonzalez scored on the play.
Halladay settled down and induced a fly out off the bat of Omar Infante and fanned rookie slugger Jason Heyward, who looked at a called third strike.
In the sixth, Martin Prado led off with a base hit and moved to third when Brian McCann smacked a double off the wall in right field. When Derrek Lee flied out to left-center field, Prado successfully tagged-up from third, but McCann surprisingly tried to move to third and was cut down by Shane Victorino’s throw. Nate McLouth grounded back to the mound to end the frame.
With Atlanta reliever Michael Dunn on the hill to start the bottom of the sixth, Howard worked a two-out walk and headed for third on a Werth base hit. Ibanez then ripped an inside fastball down the right-field line and into the corner, paving the way for both Howard and Werth to cross the plate for a 5-2 Philadelphia advantage.
Freeman’s two-out, solo blast in the seventh brought the Braves within two, but Ryan Madson worked around a leadoff single in the eighth — with the help of a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of McCann — and bridged the gap to closer Brad Lidge.
In the top of the ninth, Lidge surrendered a leadoff single to Lee, but fanned McLouth before two straight fly outs ended the contest and earned Lidge his 25th save of the season.
The Phillies pounded out 12 hits but also stranded 12 baserunners…Halladay threw 103 pitches (64 strikes)…The scheduled pitching matchup for Wednesday’s series finale is set to feature Philly’s Roy Oswalt against Tommy Hanson…Halladay also became the first pitcher since Jim Bibby of Pittsburgh in 1980 to go 13-1 against the NL East…The Phillies are now 50-27 at home this season. It marked the first time they have won at least 50 home games in a season since 1993, when the club finished 52-29 at Veterans Stadium.