Phillies Win Again, Cling to Playoff Hopes

Friday, September 10th 2004, 6:54 am
By: News On 6

(AP)_The Philadelphia Phillies are clinging to their slim playoff hopes even if they're having trouble hanging onto fly balls.

Center fielder Jason Michaels accidentally knocked Charles Thomas' drive over the fence for a bizarre home run, but Philadelphia recovered to beat the Atlanta Braves 9-4 on Thursday night.

``It was like jai alai,'' said Phillies manager Larry Bowa, who had never seen anything like it during all his years in baseball. ``He had it on his hand and flipped it out.''

The Phillies got a tiebreaking, two-run double from Jim Thome and won the last three of four games at Turner Field. They are 5 1/2 games behind the NL wild-card lead, though there are five teams ahead of them.

With the Braves trailing 4-3, Thomas led off the fourth with a deep drive to center. Michaels did well just getting to the ball, reaching up for it at the edge of the warning track.

The ball deflected off his glove and headed toward the ground. Michaels swatted at it, still trying to make the catch. Instead, he knocked it into the first row of seats.

``I was at a loss for words,'' an embarrassed Michaels said. ``I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I almost didn't think it was real.''

In other NL games, it was: New York 4, Florida 0; Colorado 9, San Diego 7; Los Angeles 5, Arizona 3; and Milwaukee 7, Cincinnati 2. Houston and Pittsburgh split a doubleheader, with the Pirates winning 3-1 in the first game and the Astros taking the second 9-2.

After an intentional walk to Bobby Abreu in the seventh, Thome hit a two-run double off Ramon Colon (1-1) for a 6-4 lead.

``We'd been striking him out on a regular basis the whole series,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said, defending the decision. Cox was ejected after the sixth.

Pat Burrell homered in the eighth and doubled in another run in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

``One thing you've got to admire about Thome,'' Bowa said. ``No matter if he's 0-for-20 or 18-for-20, he wants to be in that spot. You can't teach that. All good hitters are like that.''

Philadelphia starter Cory Lidle had a 22-inning scoreless streak until Chipper Jones hit a three-run homer in the third. Lidle went five innings, giving up four runs, but the bullpen picked him up.

Ryan Madson (9-2), Rheal Cormier, Felix Rodriguez and Geoff Geary held the Braves scoreless the rest of the way. Phillies relievers pitched 16 scoreless innings during the series.

``They've certainly got the arms down there and reputations to go with it,'' Jones said.

Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco hit consecutive homers on the first two pitches of the game from Atlanta starter Russ Ortiz. He also gave up a two-run shot to Mike Lieberthal.

Pirates 3, Astros 1, 1st game

Astros 9, Pirates 2, 2nd game

At Pittsburgh, Jeff Bagwell, Brad Ausmus and Lance Berkman drove in two runs apiece in the nightcap to help Houston gain a doubleheader split and win for the 13th time in 14 games.

In the first game, Oliver Perez (10-8) ended Houston's 12-game winning streak by striking out a career-high 14 in eight dominant innings. He joined Bob Veale as the only Pirates pitchers with 200 strikeouts in a season.

The Astros bounced back in Game 2 for their 21st victory in 25 games. They are tied with San Francisco for the NL wild-card lead.

Rockies 9, Padres 7

At Denver, Todd Helton had three RBIs and Aaron Miles hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the seventh for Colorado.

Ramon Hernandez had three RBIs and Khalil Greene hit his 12th homer for San Diego, which dropped 2 1/2 games behind the wild-card lead. The Padres are 1-4 against the Rockies the past week and have lost seven of 10 overall.

Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 3

At Los Angeles, Steve Finley homered twice and Jose Lima (12-5) earned his first win in a month.

Finley snapped a 2-all tie in the fifth with a solo homer off Edgar Gonzalez (0-9), then hit a two-run shot in the sixth to help the Dodgers extend their NL West lead to five games over idle San Francisco. Eric Gagne earned his 38th save in 40 opportunities

The Diamondbacks, losers of seven straight, finished 3-16 against the Dodgers this season.

Mets 4, Marlins 0

At Miami, Kris Benson (11-11) pitched five-hit ball into the seventh, Eric Valent homered off Ismael Valdez (12-8) and New York ended three streaks by beating Florida.

The Mets snapped an 11-game losing skid while stopping the Marlins' franchise record-tying nine-game winning streak. New York also ended a run of 10 consecutive losses to Florida.

The Mets took a lead for the first time in 60 innings when Mike Cameron doubled in the second and scored on Jason Phillips' single.

The Marlins headed to Wrigley Field for a crucial four-game series. Florida and the Chicago Cubs, meeting for the first time since last year's NL championship series, are among five teams in a tight race for the wild card.

Brewers 7, Reds 2

At Cincinnati, Wes Helms hit a grand slam, Brady Clark went 4-for-4 against his former team and Doug Davis (11-10) tied his career high for wins with his first victory in seven starts. Wily Mo Pena homered for the Reds, who have lost four straight and nine of 10.