Braves extend lead over Phillies
Troy Glaus didn't let the rain bother him.
Neither did Tim Hudson.
Glaus stayed hot with a three-run homer, Hudson pitched six strong innings around a delay, and the streaking Atlanta Braves extended with lead in the NL East with a 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.
With the showers splattering off his helmet, Glaus homered in the first off Cole Hamels to give the Braves a quick lead they never relinquished on the way to their 17th win in the last 21 games, including seven in a row.
"It's not easy. You've got to keep your focus,'' Glaus said of hitting in the rain. "They wouldn't have redone it if he had gotten me out. As long as we're out there playing, you've got to play through it.''
Three pitches after the homer, umpires halted play and called for the tarp.
Hudson (6-1) pitched a 1-2-3 first, then returned after a one-hour, four-minute delay to allow only two runs in his fifth straight win.
After losing a potential win in his last start at Florida, when a rain delay prompted the Braves to lift him after four innings, Hudson was determined to keep going this time. He headed to an indoor mound to stay loose.
"I threw two innings off the inside mound, so I actually pitched eight innings and gave up two runs,'' Hudson joked. "I don't know if they'll factor that into my numbers or not.''
Cole Hamels (5-4) didn't return after surrendering Glaus' homer and getting only two outs before the rains struck. It was the shortest start of his career.
"We lost Hamels. It wasn't very good,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Once he passed 40 minutes, he was done.''
The Braves moved to 1 1/2 games ahead of two-time reigning NL champion Philadelphia. They haven't been in first this late in the season since 2005, the last of their record 14 straight division titles.
Philadelphia is heading in the opposite direction. The Phillies have lost eight of 10 and are really struggling at the plate, though Ryan Howard's two-run homer ensured they didn't get shut out for the sixth time in the last 10 games.
"We'll keep swinging,'' Manuel said.
Glaus, who had an NL-leading 28 RBIs in May, got the new month off to a good start. After Martin Prado led off with a double into the left-field corner and Chipper Jones walked, Glaus hit a hanging change-up from Hamels into the seats for his ninth homer of the season.
Three pitches after Glaus' homer, heavy rains brought out the tarp. Hamels didn't return after the storm passed, charged with two hits, two walks and three runs in the briefest of his 127 career starts.
The Braves added to their lead with two more runs in the third, one coming home when third baseman Juan Castro botched a potential double-play grounder. Yunel Escobar made it 5-0 with a run-scoring single. Melky Cabrera and Prado drove in Atlanta's final two runs.
Philadelphia finally broke through in the sixth. Howard hit his ninth homer into the Atlanta bullpen, but the Phillies haven't scored more than three runs in the last 10 games. After Wilson Valdez's RBI single off Jonny Venters, Billy Wagner got the final out for his eighth save with the potential tying run at the plate.
How bad are things going for the defending champs?
In the fifth, Shane Victorino lost his grip on a swing and the bat flew into the stands, striking a woman. Then, after whiffing on a 3-2 pitch, Victorino's bat came around and struck the mask of Braves' catcher Brian McCann as he attempted to throw, wiping out a steal because of unintentional interference.
The Phillies' most frustrating sequence came in the seventh, their best chance to get back in the game.
After putting runners on first and third with no outs, Victorino popped out to first and Valdez hit into an unusual, inning-ending double play. Valdez's grounder was fielded by third baseman Chipper Jones, who made a low throw to second for the force. Prado scooped it out of the dirt and realized he had no chance to complete the double play the traditional way. But he spotted slow-running Carlos Ruiz heading home and threw to McCann, who put the tag on his fellow catcher and held on to the ball despite getting bowled over.
NOTES: Hudson is also doing good work at the plate. A second-inning single extended his hitting streak to five games. ... Derek Lowe, who'll start for Atlanta in Wednesday's series finale against Kyle Kendrick, celebrated his 38th birthday. ... Philadelphia IF Placido Polanco (left elbow) returned to the team after receiving an injection but didn't play.