In it to win it
Phillies’ sweep is a blow to Braves’ hopes of winning division, and the NL wild-card race tightens as well.
The Atlanta Braves sure picked a bad time to go into a slump.
Despite spending 106 days atop the National League East this season, the Braves and retiring Manager Bobby Cox woke up Thursday in danger of missing the playoffs completely after being swept in a threegame series by the surging Phillies.
The Braves have already lost more games in September — 12 — than have they had in each of the previous four months, which is not a good trend when you consider Philadelphia, the hottest team in baseball, has won 21 of its last 25.
The Phillies closed out the sweep with Roy Oswalt and a pair of relievers combining on a one-hitter in a 1-0 win. Raul Ibanez drove in the only run with a two-out double in the eighth inning, pushing Atlanta six games back in the division race and dropping Philadelphia’s magic number to clinch the division title to four.
The Braves get Thursday off before resuming play in Washington on Friday. The Phillies will play host to the Mets in a three-game weekend series.
“We’ve got to go back to Square One and get back on track,” catcher Brian McCann told reporters afterward. “This is our season. We’ve got nine games left. We dug ourselves in a little bit of a hole here and we’ve got to dig ourselves up.”
Atlanta also saw its margin in the wild-card race cut to just a half-game over San Francisco, which was also shut out Wednesday, losing to Randy Wells and the Chicago Cubs, 2-0. That allowed the Padres to slip past the Giants and into the NL West lead with a 3-1 win over the Dodgers. The Colorado Rockies remained three back in both the division and wild-card standings after blowing a four-run first-inning lead in an 8-4 loss at Arizona. Ubaldo Jimenez, bidding for this 20th win, lasted just four innings.
In the lone American League race still in doubt, Tampa Bay got back-to-back homers from Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to slog to a rain-plagued 7-2 win over the Yankees, cutting New York’s advantage in the East to 11⁄
The teams, which played until 12:34 a.m. EDT, meet for the final time this season Thursday. The Rays close their season with 10 games against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City, which are all at least 27 games under .500. The Yankees will play six with Boston and three with Toronto, both teams with winning records.
NL WEST: SAN DIEGO 3, DODGERS 1 David Eckstein, left, and Adrian Gonzalez greet Miguel Tejada after Tejada’s homer in the third inning against the Dodgers
as the Padres moved ahead of Giants for NL West lead. C5
AL EAST: TAMPA BAY 7, NEW YORK 2 Evan Longoria is congratulated after hitting the second of two consecutive home runs in the seventh inning, as the Rays
pulled within 11⁄ games of the division-leading Yankees.