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Phillies down Braves, move closer in wild card race

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Associated Press
9/21/2012 10:49:29 PM
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies did all their scoreboard watching before taking the field, and then took care of their own business.

Kevin Frandsen hit one of Philadelphia's four solo homers to back Kyle Kendrick, and the Phillies inched closer in the NL playoff race with a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley also went deep for the resurgent Phillies, who pulled within three games of St. Louis for the league's second wild-card spot with their fourth straight win. Milwaukee and Los Angeles also stand in Philadelphia's way with 11 games remaining.

Players quietly celebrated the Cardinals' 5-4 afternoon loss at the Chicago Cubs in the clubhouse and didn't waste the opportunity to make up ground with time running out on their season.

"We knew," Howard said about St. Louis' loss. "Whether the Cardinals win or lose, we still have to go out and win. This is a playoff push. This is what you play for. To be in the hunt with everything we went through this season, it's a fun feeling. I never gave up on anything. That's why you play 162 games."

Despite the loss, the Braves are in excellent position to secure a post-season berth. Their magic number for clinching a spot remained at five following the Brewers' victory at Washington.

"We've got enough stress going on in the field. The last thing we need to worry about is if Milwaukee is beating Washington right now," Freddie Freeman said. "That's the main goal. You've got to win games and if you don't win games it doesn't matter what's going on in the scoreboard."

Kendrick (10-11) allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out six. He is 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA since Aug. 14.

"I'm confident in what I have and what kind of pitcher I am right now," Kendrick said.

The Phillies aren't going to win their sixth straight NL East title, but they have made a remarkable turnaround to still be playing meaningful games. When two-time All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino were traded on July 31, the Phillies were 45-57 and 13 games behind the second wild-card team. They are 32-17 since and have gained 10 games in the standings.

"I'm proud of them," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I've seen times where we could've folded tent. That's a mark of a bunch of guys who love to play and definitely want to win."

Atlanta's Tommy Hanson (12-9) gave up five runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings to remain winless since July 30. Hanson is 0-4 in his last seven starts.

"As of right now, I'm not doing a very good job," Hanson said.

The Phillies honoured retiring Braves third baseman Chipper Jones during a pregame ceremony. Philadelphia infielders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley presented the eight-time All-Star with a painting of himself taking a swing in the batter's box.

Jones received a standing ovation from a crowd that has booed him relentlessly over the years. He waved his cap in appreciation and tipped his hat again while walking back to the dugout.

Fans returned to booing when Jones came up in the eighth, and then cheered when he struck out to end the inning. Jones hit two walkoff homers against the Phillies this season.

"Fans in every park try to take the best players on each team out of their game," Jones said. "They question the ancestry of your mother, your wife and kids -- nothing is off limits. It's always entertaining. I have a lot of good memories here."

Frandsen hit a towering shot to left to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the third. The journeyman infielder has filled in nicely for the injured Placido Polanco, hitting .329 in 155 at-bats.

Howard and Ruiz made it 4-1 with consecutive homers in the fourth. Howard has connected three straight days, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth to lift the Phillies over the Mets 3-2 on Wednesday night in New York.

Ruiz hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 5-1 in the sixth.

Michael Bourn's RBI single with two outs in the seventh got the Braves within 5-2 and ended Kendrick's night.

Juan Pierre tripled and scored on Utley's RBI groundout for a 1-0 Phillies lead in the first.

Brian McCann's RBI groundout in the second tied it.

Notes: The Phillies are three games above .500 for the first time since they were 28-25 on June 1. ... The four homers were a season high for Philadelphia. ... Jones entered the game with a .332 career average against the Phillies, and he has 49 homers and 151 RBIs in 244 games. ... Braves SS Andrelton Simmons could return to the lineup Saturday. He injured his right shoulder Monday. ... Braves INF Paul Janish could be out 3-to-4 weeks with a dislocated left shoulder. ... Pierre is hitting .458 (22-for-48) in his last 16 games. ... The Phillies have hit back-to-back homers seven times this season. ... Roy Halladay (10-7) faces Mike Minor (9-11) on Saturday afternoon. Halladay has won six of his last seven decisions for the Phillies.

Kyle Kendrick (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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