Braves snap Phillies' six-game win streak

BY foxsports • September 20, 2009

Pedro Martinez knew he wouldn't last long after straining his neck during a second-inning at-bat.

Javier Vazquez outpitched an ailing Martinez, and the Atlanta Braves survived a shaky ninth inning to snap Philadelphia's six-game winning streak with a 6-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday night.

"When I took that swing on that second curve ball, I felt something," he said. "But I didn't think it was going to get worse than it was. I felt a little discomfort, but it got stiff as the game went on."

Martinez (5-1) left his start after three innings because of stiffness in the right side of his neck. The three-time Cy Young Award was trailing 3-0 when he approached the mound to begin warming up for the fourth, but manager Charlie Manuel, already concerned about his rotation after rookie starter J.A. Happ lasted just three innings Friday, called for Chad Durbin instead.

"There's no sense leaving him out there," Manuel said. "He already had (56) pitches."

Martinez gave up seven hits, three runs and one walk with one strikeout. He blamed the early departure on a second-inning at-bat in which Vazquez struck him out.

"I'm not a big fan of swinging, to be honest," Martinez said. "Taking into consideration I didn't practice, not today, not yesterday, I'm not a big fan. I'll bunt as much as you want."

Vazquez (14-9) won his third straight start, allowing three hits and three walks with six strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. Lowering his ERA 10 points to 2.91, Vazquez allowed the Phillies to get just two runners in scoring position, neither as far as third base.

"It's a good streak I'm in," Vazquez said. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball well."

Atlanta has won eight of nine and nine of 11. The Braves won a season series over Philadelphia, the defending World Series champion, for the first time since 2004.

With his team clinging to hopes of overtaking Colorado, San Francisco and Florida to win the NL wild-card, Vazquez knows Atlanta has little margin for error.

"We have to keep winning games and see where we are at the end," Vazquez said. "That's all we can control - winning our games."

Adam LaRoche, who went 2 for 2, made it 1-0 with an RBI single in the second. The Braves led 3-0 in the third on RBI singles by Brian McCann and LaRoche, but Martinez stranded six runners through the first three innings.

Durbin gave up Martin Prado's sacrifice fly RBI to make it 4-0 in the fourth, and Matt Diaz's 11th homer, a two-run shot, that gave the Braves a 6-0 lead in the fifth.

Philadelphia began the game with a 7-0 record in Martinez's seven starts this season. He was coming off a 130-pitch performance that included eight scoreless innings, six hits, no walks and seven strikeouts in a 1-0 victory last Sunday against the New York Mets, his former team.

"He didn't have that fastball he had at home the last time out," Manuel said. "But he was pitching kind of different. Maybe he figured that's how he was going to get them out. That's also seeing if he can bounce back. That's all part of it."

Martinez, who missed parts of 2007-08 because of reconstructive shoulder surgery with the Mets, went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts last year for New York. The Phillies, who signed him July 15, were the only team to offer Martinez a contract.

Dropping to 3-1 on the road, Martinez's ERA rose 57 points to 5.66 away from Philadelphia. Entering Saturday, Martinez had benefited from the Phillies' offense outscoring opponents 38-19 in his first seven starts.

"My arm is perfectly good," Martinez said. "I can tell you, 100 percent, my arm is fine."

Ryan Howard, who homered twice in the Phillies' 9-4 victory Friday, is hitting .344 with eight homers and 16 RBIs this year against Atlanta. In his career, Howard has 32 homers, 87 RBIs and a .342 average in 298 career at-bats against the Braves.

He added a two-run shot in the ninth off Rafael Soriano. The Phillies scored two more times against the closer, but fell short.


Phillies CF Shane Victorino, who did not play Friday, struck out in a pinch-hit appearance with runners on first and second in the ninth. He had been suffering flu-like symptoms. ... LaRoche left after the seventh to rest his sore back. ... Atlanta SS Yunel Escobar, who went 1 for 3, after getting benched during Friday's game for failing to run out a grounder. ... Howard wore a sleeve on his left forearm after getting hit by pitches in the same spot against Washington on Thursday and Atlanta on Friday. ... Philadelphia C Carlos Ruiz was held out of the lineup because of a left wrist sprain.