ATLANTA If the Braves could play the Philadelphia Phillies more often, Atlanta's season might not have crumbled so completely.
Rookie starter Williams Perez and Braves relievers turned away multiple Phillies scoring opportunities Friday night in a 2-1 series-opening win at Turner Field that kept Philadelphia in last place in the National League East, two games behind the Braves.
The Phillies put two on with none out in the ninth inning against rookie closer Arodys Vizcaino, on a walk and an error by third baseman Hector Olivera. Vizcaino then struck out Freddy Galvis, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera in order, but Herrera reached base on a strike-three wild pitch that bounced off catcher Christian Bethancourt and into the stands.
With bases loaded, Darin Ruf lined out to second base to end the game.
It was only the fifth win in 31 games for the Braves, three of those wins against the Phillies. With another Saturday or Sunday, the Braves would snap a string of five consecutive home-series losses. They've won only one of their past nine series, that when they took two of three games recently at Philadelphia.
The Braves have scored two runs or fewer in 16 of their past 31 games, but it was enough Friday as they won their 17th consecutive home game that's been decided by one run. That streak, which dates to May 1, is tied for the second-longest streak of its kind in the majors over the past 30 years, and it's the longest within a single season.
The irony, of course, is that the Braves had won only one of their past 15 home games before Friday, and snapped a 12-game home losing streak Tuesday that was the franchise's longest in more than a century.
The Braves (58-90) gained a 9-8 edge in the season series with the Phillies (56-92) that finishes Sunday.
The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Freddie Freeman doubled with one out, advanced to third on Michael Bourn's fly out to center, and scored on Cameron Maybin's first-pitch single up the middle. Maybin came in batting .353 with runners in scoring position, seventh-best in the National League.
Two innings later, rookie Andrew McKirahan struck out Jeff Francoeur with bases loaded to protect the lead. Relievers McKirahan and Peter Moylan turned away another Phillies scoring threat in the seventh when McKirahan, with runners on the corners and one out, coaxed a grounder from Odubel Herrera, with McKirahan fielding the ball and shoveling it with his glove to Bethancourt, who made the tag despite being shaken up on the play.
With two runners still on base, Moylan retired Darin Ruf on a comebacker to the mound for the third out of the inning.
Perez has moved back toward the impressive form he displayed prior to a five-week stint on the disabled list. After going 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his past 10 games before getting struck in the foot by a line drive, the rookie went 0-6 with a 9.50 ERA in his first seven starts back from the DL, allowing an alarming 52 hits and 20 walks in 36 innings.
But in his past three starts, Perez is 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA, allowing 20 hits but only four walks in 182/3 innings. He's been able to work out of tight spots again in the past few starts, something he had a knack for prior to his injury but not in his first seven starts back from the DL, when his control was lacking.
The Braves staked him to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Nick Markakis led off with a single and scored on Adonis Garcia's two-out double off the center-field fence. Garcia was thrown out trying to get back to second base on the play and left the game after the inning, possibly with an injury from lunging with his foot to the base.
After Odubel Herrrea singled with two out in the first inning, Perez struck out Darin Ruf on a 13-pitch at-bat that included eight consecutive foul balls before a foul-tipped strike three.
Cameron Rupp hit a tying two-out homer in the second inning, and the Phillies had a chance to take the lead in the fourth after Herrera's leadoff single. Perez struck out Ruf for the first out, gave up another single to Andres Blanco, then got Cody Asche on a fly out and struck out Rupp to end the inning with two runners on base.
After the Braves moved back ahead with a run in the fourth, the Phillies got another leadoff single in the fifth from Brian Bogusevic. After a sacrifice bunt, Perez induced a couple of 4-3 groundouts to end the inning, again with no damage done.
But the biggest escape of the night came in the sixth, when Perez got a big assist from the bullpen. After a one-out single from Ruf and a two-out walk issued to Asche, Perez was replaced by Brandon Cunniff, who walked Rupp to load the bases. After left-hander McKirahan entered, the Phillies sent up pinch-hitter Francoeur, the 31-year-old former Brave who's had something of a resurgent season with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in just under 300 at-bats.
McKirahan struck him out to leave the bases loaded and make the Phillies 0-for-5 with seven runners stranded through six innings.
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