Ross Gload rounded first base and stopped before a mob of teammates swarmed him. Gload has struggled lately, so the playful punches were most welcome.
Gload hit a pinch RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep and extend their lead to 10-1/2 games in the NL East.
”For me, it’s huge because I haven’t had many,” said Gload, who was 4 for 33 before the at-bat. ”I’ll take it. It’s big for me, bigger for the team.”
The major league-leading Phillies (91-48) reduced their magic number to 12 for clinching their fifth straight division title. They are 43 games above .500 for the first time in franchise history.
Second-place Atlanta still should reach the postseason barring a late collapse. The Braves lead St. Louis by 6-1/2 games in the wild-card race.
”Right now, they’re just playing really good baseball and we’re not scoring any runs,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”It’s just not happening for us right now.”
It may be a costly win for the Phillies because five-time All-Star Chase Utley left the game for precautionary reasons for a possible concussion, two innings after he was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Eric O’Flaherty.
”He had headaches,” manager Charlie Manuel said. ”He was OK until he went out to the field and started to have headaches.”
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley has to see the team doctor and won’t play for at least the next two games in Milwaukee.
”We think it’s pretty mild,” Amaro said.
Raul Ibanez drew a one-out walk off Peter Moylan (1-1) in the ninth. Carlos Ruiz followed with a single to left. Gload then ripped a hard grounder down the right-field line to score Ibanez.
Ryan Madson (4-2) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win after Roy Oswalt tossed seven strong innings.
The Phillies are cruising toward October in a season when only a World Series title would be considered a success. They need 11 wins in the last 23 games to set a single-season franchise record.
Down 2-1, the Phillies rallied against All-Star Jonny Venters in the eighth. Pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. led off with a single. He moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Placido Polanco’s two-out single to right.
Oswalt took a no-hitter into the sixth. He gave up two runs and four hits. The righty had seven strikeouts and a season-high four walks.
Braves starter Brandon Beachy allowed one run and two hits, striking out seven in 5-2/3 innings.
The Braves took their first lead of the series on pinch-hitter Freddie Freeman’s bad-hop RBI single in the seventh. Jason Heyward led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Freeman followed with a grounder up the middle that hit the grass cutout and took a high hop over second baseman Utley’s head.
Oswalt didn’t allow a hit until Michael Bourn led off the sixth with a double to left-center. One out later, Bourn scored on Chipper Jones’ single up the middle to tie it at 1.
Ibanez gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead when he ripped one out to deep right-center for his 18th homer and 250th in his career.
The Phillies learned before the game they were denied their protest for a fan interference call in a 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday.
They were on the opposite side of a controversial call this time.
Polanco hit a looping fly to right field with two outs and a runner on first in the sixth. Right fielder Heyward dove and caught the ball on a short-hop. But first base umpire CB Bucknor ruled out and the Braves ran off the field. Polanco immediately argued and manager Charlie Manuel came out. Bucknor conferred with the other umpires and Polanco was ruled safe.
Gonzalez argued and was ejected. O’Flaherty replaced Beachy and hit Utley to load the bases. Utley appeared dazed, stayed in the box and said: ”What happened?” He shook off a trainer and took first base.
Ryan Howard struck out to end the inning.
Oswalt has struggled this season, mainly because of back injuries that landed him on the disabled list twice. He’s 7-8 with a 3.72 ERA. But the three-time All-Star was the Phillies’ best pitcher down the stretch last year. He was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA after coming to Philadelphia in a trade from Houston on July 29.
The hot topic on sports radio in Philadelphia is whether Oswalt or rookie Vance Worley should be the No. 4 starter in the postseason. Worley is 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA and the Phillies have won his last 14 starts.
But Oswalt has the proven pedigree. He was the 2005 NLCS MVP with Houston and pitched a gem in Game 2 of the NLCS last year against the San Francisco Giants.
Oswalt noticed all the talk.
”Reading all the papers, I thought I got released,” he said. ”I think it’s comical.”
NOTES: A crowd of 44,870 was the 207th straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park, including postseason play. … Atlanta’s Dan Uggla was 0 for 3, snapping his 10-game hitting streak. … The Phillies open a four-game series at NL Central-leading Milwaukee on Thursday night. Cole Hamels (13-7, 2.63) opposes Chris Narveson (10-6). … The Braves play a day/night doubleheader at the New York Mets on Thursday. Mike Minor (4-2, 4.09) faces Chris Schwinden in Game 1. Julio Teheran (0-1, 5.19) faces Dillon Gee (12-5, 4.48) in the nightcap.
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