John Smoltz made an easy game interesting by giving up two runs on four hits in the ninth, but the Braves escaped with a win. (I hate it when you bring in closers to pitch the ninth in these games. They can’t seem to figure out that you can’t pitch yourself into a save situation.) Mike Hampton had one of the stranger eight innings of two-hit, one-run baseball you’ll see. He got only one strikeout, that in his last inning of work, but walked only one and the balls were at the fielders. I count four lineouts in the first four innings. The one run came on a Lieberthal homer in the fifth and at that time tied the game.
Fortunately, Andruw homered with a runner on in the top of the sixth to give the Braves the lead back. (Andruw-bashers’ spin: He’s selfish because Marrero doubled the next AB. If he’d hit a single or double, Marrero could have gotten an RBI as well.) Julio had another big day, with a two-run single in the seventh. He also singled with Chipper on in the third, which turned into the game’s first run when Marlon Byrd butchered the play.
It was a disappointing offensive outing in many ways, as the Braves had ten hits and eight walks, but could only score the five runs. They hit into two double plays — including one I still can’t figure out by Furcal with one out and the bases loaded in the second — and stranded eleven.
The Phillies, meanwhile, are now 12 1/2 back, two games below .500, and officially the heirs of the Mets teams of the mid and late nineties, the teams that always acted like they were champions but never won anything. Remind me next year to compile all the quotes from the Phillies players about how they’re the team to beat, okay? They’re even sixth, seven back, in the wildcard, making their feeble attempt to set up for postseason even more laughable… The Magic Number is 24, as the Marlins have now won five in a row. (Never count out the Marlins; the champs have quietly matched the Astros’ recent win streak and stand even with Houston, three out of the wildcard.)
Jose Vicente Padilla against Jaret Wright tomorrow on SportsSouth.