Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has come up with a number of clutch hits recently, broke up a 1-1 pitching duel between Joe Blanton and Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens on Sunday with a 2 run double to leftfield which barely eluded the grasp of leftfielder Garret Anderson. With help from lefthanded reliever Scott Eyre and from closer Brad Lidge, who threw a 12 pitch clean ninth inning, the Phillies edged the Braves by a 3-2 score on Ruiz’s 2 run double to take 2 of the 3 games in their series.
With the win, the Phils upped their lead back to 8 games in the NL East division over both Atlanta and the Florida Marlins. Florida, meanwhile, beat San Diego to tie the Braves for 2d place. The Mets stayed 17 1.2 games back in 4th place by salvaging a game from the Chicago Cubs in what had been a brutal series for the Mets.
Through the first 6 1/2 innings, Blanton and Jurrjens almost matched each other pitch-for-pitch as neither team could plate runs other than Braves’ 2nd baseman Martin Prado’s 1 out first inning solo homer and 2nd baseman Chase Utley’s fourth inning 1 out game-tying solo homer to rightfield. Despite Blanton’s 4 walks, the Braves couldn’t string together a threat or plate runs. Blanton turned in another strong performance going seven innings and allowing only 3 hits, one of them, Prado’s first inning homer.
The Phillies had the game’s biggest threat in the fifth inning loading the bases on a walk and 2 singles. Ruiz, who was a perfect at the plate for the game, singled in the inning but was doubled off of 1st base on Blanton’s line drive to Braves’ 1st baseman Adam LaRoche to put a damper on the threat. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins followed grounding out to 2nd base to end the inning.
Due to a lack of run support, ….it looked like more of the same Sunday night until the seventh inning when Ruiz broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run double to left.
“That seventh got crazy,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We were playing Ruiz the other way. We almost made the catch.”
Atlanta got a run back in the eighth on Chipper Jones’ RBI single, but Scott Eyre came on in relief of Ryan Madson and got out of a two-on, no-out jam. Brian McCann grounded into a double play and Anderson grounded out to second.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a smart decision on the double play, taking the relay from second baseman Chase Utley and throwing to third to force out Martin Prado. It was a stellar defensive night for Rollins, who opened the game with a diving catch off Matt Diaz’s liner and made a strong play later in the frame on a liner up the middle by Yunel Escobar.
Blanton (9-6) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings, making it 12 straight starts he has allowed three earned runs or less.
Jurrjens (10-9) made it 21 of 28 starts in which he’s allowing two earned runs or less. But the Braves couldn’t muster enough offense for the right-hander, who has seen that trend repeat itself this season. Jurrjens pitched seven innings, allowing three runs—two earned—on seven hits while striking out two and walking two.
Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless ninth for his 27th save.
For the scores of all of Sunday’s games, click here.
The Phillies get a much needed Monday off before beginning an important 3 game series hosting the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday through Thursday.
The Giants may not end up as the NL Wild Card team, but they unquestionably have one of the better starting rotations in the NL which is why it was soo important for the Phils to take their series with the Braves. The opener is a battle of lefthanders as Cole Hamels is opposed by Jonathan Sanchez who earlier in the season was 1 error from a perfect game. In Wednesday’s game 2, lefthanded rookie-of-the-year candidate J.A. Happ faces CY Young Award candidate Tim Lincecum. In Thursday’s final Pedro Martinez (provided there is no lengthy rain delay) is opposed by lefthander Barry Zito who has pitched well consistently since All Star break but fell victim in 4 games to lack of offensive support.