First place, all alone!

The Braves led 4-1 through five, and 4-2 after seven. I was wondering who Bobby would put in for Hampton, who had thrown 101 pitches and gave up a homer to Thome in his last inning. I was thinking, with Reitsma’s recent struggles, he’d go with Alfonseca, or possibly Cruz (who he’s had a little more faith in lately). But he sent out Smoltz to start the eighth. It paid off, in the short term, anyway. Smoltz mowed the Phillies down in the eighth, striking out two. He gave up a leadoff single to Abreu, but got Thome.

Then things got weird. Burrell grounded out to short, but Giles threw the ball away trying to turn the DP. Then Ricky Ledee struck out, but reached on a passed ball. Normally, if you give the other team five outs it’s going to hurt you, but Smoltz got out of it, and the Braves are all alone in first.

The Braves took the lead in the second when LaRoche doubled home Estrada and Andruw singled him home. Thomas plated Andruw in the fourth, and Chipper doubled home Drew in the fifth. It’s hard to point out an offensive hero — all the Braves’ regulars reached base, but none had a really big day — but I’ll say LaRoche, who was 2-3 with a walk.

Hampton was above-average, striking out four and walking only one, allowing five hits. His season ERA is now under five, finally.

Milton and Wright tomorrow night. The Marlins beat the Mets and are back into a third-place tie.