The Phillies continued to bust out of their late season malaise behind a final tuneup from fourth ace Roy Oswalt, as they beat the Atlanta Braves 7-1 Tuesday night to win their 101st game of the season.
Following an eight-game losing streak that had some wondering whether or not this team was running out of gas, the offense broke out of whatever funk they were in to rattle off three-straight victories -- all in convincing fashion -- to head towards season's end with a bang.
While the team has the luxury of taking their foot off the gas in the last series of the season, manager Charlie Manuel (who by the way also tied the franchise record for wins by a manager) opted to go with all eight starters for the second night in a row, in a new lineup designed to split up the big bats in an attempt to throw off the opposing managers when it comes to late inning pitching changes.
The new strategy seems to be working thanks to the 1-2-3 combination of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence at the top.
It was the struggling Utley who started the scoring for the Phillies in the first inning, when he belted a solo homer -- his 11th of the year. The Phils added two more in the top of the third on an RBI single from Rollins, as well as a sacrifice fly from Pence, to give them the 3-0 lead over their division rivals.
After Placido Polanco's sacrifice fly put them up by four in the fourth inning, Pence belted a two-run bomb in the fifth -- his 22nd of the year -- to make it a six-run lead. One inning later, Rollins added a solo shot of his own -- his 16th and second in as many nights -- to cap the scoring.
Seven runs were more than enough for Oswalt. The Braves, who have whittled away their once commanding wild-card lead (which was at 8-1/2 games when the month began), couldn't get anything going against Oswalt, who pitched six shutout innings in his final start before the playoffs. He allowed three hits, one walk and struck out four while exhibiting an impressive fastball.
His counterpart, right-hander Derek Lowe, fared much worse, and was pulled after allowing five earned runs on six hits over four innings.
The Braves' lone run came in the bottom of the ninth on Martin Prado's 13th homer of the season.
There was much to like about this win, which ties the all-time club record for most in a season, including Oswalt's very solid start and Rollins' performance with the bat, but the most encouraging thing about tonight was Antonio Bastardo's perfect eighth inning, where he struck out one while throwing nine of his 12 pitches for strikes. If that's a sign of things to come for the young lefty, then the Phillies are in an even better position heading into October.
With one game left to set the franchise record for wins in a season, the Phillies will send Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.03) to the hill, where he will be opposed by Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.23).