Braves Win a Thriller Over the Phillies

ATLANTA (AP) -- If the Braves somehow make the playoffs, this is the one they'll remember.

Overcoming two large deficits, Atlanta pulled out a 9-8 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Matt Diaz's three-run double with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday.

The Braves, who trailed 5-0 and 8-2, made a game of it with four runs in the eighth -- though their chances looked slim when Brett Myers (3-6) retired the first two hitters in the ninth. But Jeff Francoeur and Martin Prado hustled to beat out infield hits, and Yunel Escobar walked to load the bases.

That brought up Diaz, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He went the opposite way with a liner that skidded off the glove of right fielder Chris Roberson and landed at the base of the wall.

Roberson hit the relay man, but the throw home was up the first-base line. Escobar slid across with the improbable winning run while the Braves celebrated as though they had just won a championship.

Diaz was mobbed behind the pitcher's mound after giving the Braves just their second win in six games on a crucial homestand against their top two rivals in the NL East.

The Braves are still 7 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets, who lost 7-0 to Cincinnati. The Phillies remained five games back in second place.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel remained on the top step of the dugout for at least a minute, watching in disbelief as the Braves celebrated. Finally, he headed for the clubhouse.

Rafael Soriano (3-3) earned the win.

Braves starter Tim Hudson allowed five runs in the first two innings, and the Phillies added three more in the seventh off Oscar Villareal for an 8-2 lead.

Atlanta sent 10 hitters to the plate in the eighth. It looked like another frustrating finish for the Braves when Kelly Johnson popped out on a 2-0 pitch with the bases loaded, then Chipper Jones hit a lazy fly to left for the third out, slamming his bat in disgust.

Myers struck out Mark Teixeira to start the ninth, and Brayan Pena grounded out to first. Francoeur hit a grounder past third that shortstop Jimmy Rollins fielded in the outfield grass, giving him no chance to throw out the runner. Prado followed with a high hopper off the plate, just beating Myers' high throw to first.

Then Diaz came through with the biggest hit of all, giving the Braves a glimmer of hope in the playoff race. The team that won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 still faces long odds in its quest to get back to the postseason with only 22 games remaining.

Hudson gave up 11 hits in five innings. The remarkable comeback kept him from his third straight loss and kept the Braves (71-69) above .500.

Pat Burrell hit his 25th homer in the second, a two-out drive over the center-field wall that made it 5-0.

Kyle Kendrick breezed through the first five innings, allowing just three hits. The Braves finally broke through in the sixth, knocking out the rookie with three straight hits that included Willie Harris' leadoff homer.

The Phillies escaped with a 5-2 lead when Aaron Rowand raced over from center to make a sliding catch on Francoeur's blooper toward left, then Andruw Jones struck out against Kane Davis.

Notes

Kendrick's five-inning stint was the shortest of his surprising debut season. ... Braves SS Edgar Renteria took grounders before the game and expects to come off the disabled list before Friday's game against the Nationals. ... Hudson has allowed 14 runs and 26 hits over his last three starts, covering 16 innings.


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