Sports Outside the Beltway

Braves Rally to Beat Phillies, Save Season?

When I heard that the Braves were down seven runs late in yesterday’s game against the Phillies, I figured their season was over. I still think the playoffs are improbable, but an amazing rally at least gives them some room for hope.

With their faint playoff hopes flickering, the Braves’ bloops started falling for hits. The team that has claimed it couldn’t get a break for months got several in the last two innings Wednesday during an unusual, improbable 9-8 come-from-behind win against the Philadelphia Phillies, capped by Matt Diaz’s game-ending, three-run double with two out in the ninth.

The Braves overcame an 8-2 deficit by scoring four runs in a bloop-filled eighth and three runs in the ninth on a two-out rally when things looked just about hopeless. They turned a sparse crowd at Turner Field into a surprise party with a Braves pileup at midfield after Yunel Escobar slid home with the winning run and pointed to the sky, pumping his arm.

“We’re a pretty streaky team, and hopefully this starts a good streak,” said Diaz, who had a broken-bat, bases-loaded infield single in the eighth inning, then cleared the bases in the ninth with an opposite-field hit off the glove of right fielder Chris Roberson as he raced into the corner. “Matty being Matty,” said outfielder Willie Harris, whose home run and two RBIs helped the Braves win the series 2-1.

They’re still in third place in the NL East, 7-1/2 behind New York and 2-1/2 games behind Philadelphia, and five teams were ahead of them in the wild-card race.

When Tim Hudson gave up 11 hits and five runs in the first five innings, the Braves appeared headed for their 14th loss in 20 games and eighth in 10 home games. “Just one of those games where you’re thinking, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Jones said. They got two runs in the sixth inning on a homer from Harris and an RBI double by Jones, before stranding two runners in the inning.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to another disheartening, opportunities-wasted loss. The baseball gods turned the game upside down in the eighth and shook it. “We hit some balls hard that were caught,” Harris said, “and we hit some balls soft that weren’t caught, that went for base hits. Hopefully this a turning point for us. We’re not rolling over.”

Manager Bobby Cox said, “We had a lot of bloops. Just one of them gets caught, and we’re done. They all fell.”

Diaz said some Braves couldn’t help but laugh during the eighth inning, when they got three consecutive one-out bloop singles by Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Scott Thorman, after Jones’ leadoff double.
Francoeur drove in a run, then another scored on a wild pitch by closer Brett Myers. The Phillies still had an 8-4 lead, and McCann left with a contusion of his left ankle (he said it’s not serious).

“Crazy, crazy game,” Jones said. “We had no business winning this game, as lousy as we played through six innings. But you keep swinging the bats, and sometimes good things happen.”

Not often enough lately. But Braves fans can keep their hopes alive for a little while longer.

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