Braves Gain Ground on Mets With a 7-5 Win Over the Phils

That's when reliever Ron Mahay stopped the Phillies -- fast.

The left-hander struck out Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand before retiring Greg Dobbs on a grounder to preserve a two-run lead and help the Braves hold on for a 7-5 victory Saturday night.

"He picked me up, picked the team up, and allowed us to keep the lead," Cormier said.

Mahay (1-0) shifted the momentum on only 11 pitches, keeping Atlanta's lead at 6-4. Then he let the rest of the bullpen take it from there. Bob Wickman, who hadn't pitched since Sunday due to soreness in his right forearm, returned to work the ninth for his 19th save.

"It should be a strong bullpen," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Kelly Johnson homered and drove in three runs, and Jeff Francoeur also connected for Atlanta.

Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand homered for the Phillies, and Tadahito Iguchi added a two-run double.

The Braves were the latest team to tee off on Phillies starter Adam Eaton, a huge disappointment in the first year of a $24.5 million, three-year contract. Manager Charlie Manuel said Eaton (9-8) needed to start pitching deep into games if the Phillies are to have a chance at making the playoffs.

While Manuel stopped short of saying Eaton could get bumped from the rotation, this outing couldn't have helped his cause. Eaton failed to get out of the fourth -- giving up a pair of homers, six runs and eight hits -- while his NL-worst ERA swelled to 6.36.

"It definitely goes through your head a bit," Eaton said about being bumped. "The majority of this season has been tough for me."

Eaton has pitched at least six innings in only one of his last six starts, and poor first innings continue to be a problem. Chipper Jones hit a sacrifice fly in the first, making it the 40th earned run scored off Eaton in the first this season.

He retired the first two batters in the third before he completely fell apart. Willie Harris doubled and Johnson followed with his 13th homer. Jones and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back triples -- Teixeira's smacked off the heel of Pat Burrell's glove in front of the 374-foot sign in left -- for a 4-0 lead.

Watching the slugging switch-hitters sprinting toward third impressed Cox.

"You probably won't see that again in the history of the game, or at least in our franchise," Cox.Francoeur hit the first pitch of the fourth into the left-field seats, then two more singles and that was it for Eaton. Manuel earned a huge ovation for one of the few times this season when he gave the right-hander the hook, and Eaton, walking slowly to the dugout with his head down, was booed all the way.

Eaton has allowed 94 earned runs in 133 innings this season and has one win in his last six starts.

"He's having a hard time figuring it out," Manuel said. "You could tell he was very concerned about it."

Cormier (four-plus innings, seven hits, four runs) allowed only Rollins' solo shot in the third until he was hit hard in the fifth. Iguchi doubled with the bases loaded and Burrell followed with a run-scoring single that made it 6-4.

Cormier said he sat on the bench thinking at least one more run would score. Instead, Mahay snuffed out the rally. Acquired from Texas in the deal that also brought Teixeira to the Braves, Mahay has allowed only one earned run in 7 1-3 innings as the primary lefty in the bullpen.

Mahay said the tense situation didn't affect his approach pitching to the middle of Philadelphia's lineup.

"My job is to get him off the hook," he said. "Fortunately enough, I got out of there unscathed."

Oscar Villarreal pitched two scoreless innings. Rafael Soriano allowed Rowand's homer in the eighth.

Andruw Jones added an RBI double in the eighth for Atlanta.

Game notes
Cormier was charged with a wild pitch when the ball lodged under C Brian McCann's chest protector. ... Rowand was back in the lineup after leaving Friday's game with blurred vision in his right eye. He said doctors told him eye drops had irritated a previously undetected scratch on the eye. ... The Phillies honored PR man Larry Shenk for 44 years of service. Shenk told the crowd he had one request: "Don't boo so much." The crowd promptly booed.

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