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Phillies shoot for sweep of Braves
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Phillies have been gathering some wins lately and are in line for a sweep of the NL East-rival Atlanta Braves when the two clubs conclude a three-game series Wednesday at Turner Field.
The Phillies rallied for a 6-1 win in 13 innings Monday night, then took the series with Tuesday's 5-2 victory behind another home run from Ryan Howard and solid pitching by Kyle Kendrick. Howard set the tone early with a two-run homer in the first inning and has gone deep in back-to-back games.
"We're giving ourselves opportunities to win," said Howard. "Just collectively as a team. We've played better. We've had clutch hitting. Guys are coming in and stepping up in big situations."
Howard has 46 career homers against the Braves and helped Kendrick, who limited Atlanta to a pair of runs in seven innings. He allowed six hits, struck out six and walked only one batter.
Cesar Hernandez went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Domonic Brown added a run-scoring hit for the Phillies, who pounded out 10 hits and won for the sixth time in the last eight tries. Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a leadoff double.
Philadelphia's bullpen continued its June rise, as Jake Diekman threw a scoreless eighth inning and closer Jonathan Papelbon got his 16th save in the ninth. Since June 3, Philadelphia's bullpen ranks first in the majors in ERA, opponent OBP, OPS, WHIP and strikeout/walk ratio.
After this series in Atlanta, the Phillies will visit St. Louis for four games at Busch Stadium. The Phils are five games behind Washington for the division lead, while the Braves and Marlins are tied for second at a half-game behind.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have to be disappointed with how things have turned out with Roberto Hernandez this season and hope he can bounce back Wednesday against the Braves. Hernandez is just 2-5 with a 4.26 earned run average and winless in his last eight trips to the hill (0-4).
Hernandez suffered his third straight loss in last Friday's 2-1 setback to the Chicago Cubs and yielded both runs across 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander has given up at least two runs in each of his previous five starts (14 total).
In two career starts against Atlanta, Hernandez is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA.
Atlanta has lost nine of its last 14 games and is 8-13 since May 26. In Tuesday's loss to the Phillies, Jason Heyward had two hits and an RBI, and has reached base safely via hit or walk in 33 of his last 36 games.
The Braves totaled six hits and made two errors.
"We're fighting right now to kind of get some stuff going and get that spark going," said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who doubled and scored a run. "We had a couple of opportunities. Nothing really big. Their guy did a good job keeping us off balance offensively."
Ervin Santana struggled on the mound and labored through six innings, charged with four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits with five K's and three walks. Santana entered with a 1-0 record and 0.69 ERA in two career starts against the Phils.
Braves outfielder Justin Upton left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning after experiencing dizziness and will be re-evaluated Wednesday. He said he felt better afterward and is hitting .278 with 14 home runs and 37 RBI.
"He battled through it the first couple of innings. It just kept getting worse. So, we'll check him tomorrow," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Jordan Schafer replaced Upton in left field to begin the seventh.
Braves slugger Evan Gattis rested Tuesday and is riding a 16-game hitting streak. He is batting .406 during the run and has 15 homers and 36 RBI this season. Gattis is hitting .391 (27-for-69) with seven home runs and 19 RBI since May 19 (19 games).
The Braves will start an 11-game road trip Thursday against Washington, Houston and Philadelphia.
Aaron Harang will try to win consecutive starts for the first time in two months when he takes the mound for Atlanta Wednesday. Harang last recorded back-to-back wins April 13 and 18 for a 3-1 start to the season.
Harang is now 5-5 with a 3.20 earned run average and halted a five-start winless drought (0-2) in last Friday's 4-3 win over the LA Angels, as he fired six innings of one-run, four-hit ball. It was the right-hander's first win since May 11 against the Cubs.
Harang is 3-2 in eight home starts and 4-2 with a 4.85 ERA in 13 career games (12 starts) against the Phillies.
The Phillies lost two of three home meetings with the Braves in mid-April.
06/18 07:26:32 ET