ATLANTA – Cliff Lee took advantage of some rare run support, throwing seven scoreless innings to lead the Philadelphia Phillies past the slumping Atlanta Braves 5-1 on Saturday.
Jimmy Rollins hit his 16th homer for the Phillies, who got off to a good September start after a strong August. The wild card-leading Braves are heading in the opposite direction with three straight losses and only four wins in their past 14 games, rekindling memories of their historic collapse last season.
Lee (4-7) came in with a record that was hardly indicative of the way he's pitched this season. The Phillies had been held to three runs or fewer in 14 of his 23 starts.
The Phillies knocked out Tim Hudson (13-5) and blew the game open with two runs in the sixth.
Philadelphia jumped on Hudson right away, dealing the right-hander his first loss since July 1. He had won seven straight decisions. Rollins led off the game with a single. After Juan Pierre hit into a forceout and Chase Utley flied out, Ryan Howard and John Mayberry came through with two-out singles, the second of which brought home the first run.
Rollins led off the third with a homer off the right-field foul pole, making it 2-0, and Philadelphia extended its advantage with more clutch hitting in the fifth. With two outs, Pierre slapped a weak grounder in a perfect spot between third base and shortstop, then came all the way around to score on Utley's double to center.
The Phillies started the sixth with three straight singles off Hudson, loading the bases. Lee worked the count full, fouled off a 3-2 pitch, then took a pitch that was just off the inside corner to force in a run. That was it for Hudson, who glared at plate umpire Angel Hernandez as he trudged slowly toward the dugout.
Luis Avilan got Rollins on a popup, but pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton beat the relay throw to first when the Braves attempted to turn a double play, bringing home another run for a 5-0 lead.
Atlanta threatened twice against Lee, who got out of both jams by retiring Brian McCann. The left-hander allowed only five hits, walked one and struck out five.
Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman singled with two outs in the fourth, but McCann flied to center. In the sixth, again with two outs, Jason Heyward and Jones had back-to-back hits and Freeman walked to load the bases. McCann squandered another chance, popping out to Rollins in short left field, his head dropping as soon as the ball left his bat.
The Braves avoided a shutout on Martin Prado's ninth homer off B.J. Rosenberg in the eighth. That was of little consolation to a team that seemingly had a comfortable September lead in the wild-card race a year ago, only to be edged by St. Louis on the final day of the season.
Atlanta came into Saturday leading the Cardinals by three games for the first NL wild-card spot, with Pittsburgh only 3½ games behind the Braves.
Notes: The Braves called up four players before the game to take advantage of the expanded roster. RHP Peter Moylan, OF Jose Constanza, 1B Lyle Overbay and C J.C. Boscan came to Atlanta from Triple-A Gwinnett. Moylan, once a valuable member of the Braves' bullpen before a series of injuries, worked a scoreless eighth in his first appearance this season. ... IF Jeff Baker also joined the team after being acquired the previous day in a trade with Detroit. He struck out swinging as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. ... The Phillies didn't call up any players from the minors with the expanded roster, but they did activate OF Nate Schierholtz from the disabled list.