If only the Atlanta Braves could play the Philadelphia Phillies all the time.
The Braves target their eighth straight win over the Phillies when the two NL East inhabitants resume a three-game series tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
Atlanta recorded a 6-1 win in last night's series opener behind a strong outing from Ben Sheets, who stymied the Phillies with 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball and allowed seven hits. Sheets is now 4-1 on his comeback trail.
"He throws the ball over the plate and we made some nice plays behind him defensively," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez of Sheets.
Jason Heyward hit a solo home run and scored twice for the Braves, who have won four of five and 11 of their last 13 games. Atlanta, which is three games behind Washington for the division lead, has won seven in a row against Philadelphia and is 8-2 in the season series. The Phillies were 12-6 in this series a year ago.
The Braves can register their fifth straight series win with a victory tonight, but Mike Minor has to do his job on the mound. Minor gets the nod Tuesday and has won three of his last four decisions. He did not factor in the outcome of a 6-1 win over Miami last Thursday and tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings. He is 6-7 with a 5.01 earned run average in 20 starts.
Minor recently defeated the Phillies on July 28, when he struck out nine batters through eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in three career games (2 starts) against the Phils.
Philadelphia had won two straight and four of six games until last night.
Vance Worley continued his rough season and was tagged for four runs in only 3 2/3 innings to suffer the loss (6-7).
"Right when he went down to warm up, his stomach was bothering him, but he said he still wanted to go out there. He said right after the game that he felt much better, but that's one of the reasons why we took him out of the game," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
John Mayberry homered to provide the scoring and Kevin Frandsen added a team- best two hits for the Phillies, who are 2-2 on a nine-game homestand and sit tied with Miami for last in the NL East.
In other team news, Philadelphia had its sellout streak end on Monday. The team had sold out its last 257 games, beginning on July 7, 2009 against Cincinnati. It was the longest sellout streak in National League history and the third-longest in MLB history, behind Boston's current streak of 772 games and Cleveland's 455 straight sellouts from 1995-2001.
"You kinda know it's gonna happen," Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins said on the club's website. "You would hope that it wouldn't. You would hope that one bad season wouldn't break it up, especially after the five winning seasons that we had and division championships. But that's the way it goes. People aren't gonna spend money and come to the game if they don't feel they're getting their money's worth. And this year we've been a little short."
Speaking of money, high-priced left-hander Cole Hamels gets the start for the Phillies tonight and is 1-3 with a 3.51 earned run average in his last seven starts. The Phillies are 1-6 in that time. Hamels, who recently signed a six- year deal worth $144 million, has dropped consecutive starts for only the second time this season and was last in action during a 3-0 loss at Washington last Thursday, when he allowed all three runs and eight hits with nine Ks.
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, is 11-6 in 21 starts to go along with a 3.34 earned run average. He is 0-1 in two starts against the Braves this season and 11-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 26 career games (25 starts) in this series.