Phillies Start Strong, End Weak In Loss To Braves

The Phillies six game winning streak might have made fans forget how much they've struggled on the road. Monday night in Atlanta, they were reminded of that as the Phillies jumped to a 4-0 lead, only to let the Braves come back and beat the Phillies 6-4. To make matters worse, the Marlins beat the Mets to move back into a tie with the Phillies in the NL wild card race.

The Philadelphia Phillies got to National League Cy Young Award candidate Russ Ortiz early, but Kevin Millwood was unable to make it stand against his former team.

Ortiz settled down after a rough first inning to notch his National League leading and career-high 19th win and Mark DeRosa belted a two-run homer as the Atlanta Braves posted a 6-4 victory over the Phillies in the opener of an important four-game series for Philadelphia.

Entering the contest with a one-game lead over Florida in the wild card race, the Phillies tagged Ortiz for four runs in the first, highlighted by Mike Lieberthal's three-run homer. Millwood, who was traded from the Braves to Philadelphia after six seasons in Atlanta, continued to falter against his former teammates.

After Rafael Furcal opened the bottom of the fifth inning with a single, DeRosa hit his career high-tying fifth homer to cut the deficit in half. The Braves knotted the game with runs in the third and fourth before Andruw Jones' double play grounder with the bases loaded and none out in the fifth plated DeRosa with the go-ahead run.

Vinny Castilla added insurance with an RBI single in the eighth, as Atlanta reduced its magic number for a 12th consecutive division title to seven.

While the Braves chipped away at the deficit, Ortiz (19-6) kept Philadelphia in check, allowing just one hit in his final five innings. Ortiz improved to 3-0 vs. the Phillies this season, yielded four runs and three hits in six innings with five walks and five strikeouts.

Ray King and Jaret Wright combined for two hitless innings before Will Cunnane escaped a shaky ninth with his second career save and second in as many days.

Millwood (14-10) lost for the third time in as many meetings with Atlanta, surrendering five runs and nine hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out two as Philadelphia's six-game winning streak came to an end.

The win was the 1,896th of Bobby Cox's managerial career, tying him with Bill McKechnie for 11th place on the all-time list.

Coupled with Florida's win over the New York Mets, the Phillies fell into a tie with the Marlins for the NL wild card berth.

Philadelphia, which had lost 17 of its previous 23 road games, gave Millwood a seemingly comfortable lead right off the bat. With one out, Jimmy Rollins walked and stole second before scoring on Bobby Abreu's double down the right field line. Jim Thome drew a walk and Lieberthal belted a 2-1 pitch into the left field stands for his ninth homerun and a 4-0 cushion. Lieberthal raised his lifetime average against Ortiz to .400 (8-for-20) by going 1-for-2 and is batting .459 (17-for-37) with two homers and 11 RBI against the Braves this season.

In front of a crowd of 17,543 - the smallest in Turner Field history - Ortiz retired the next two batters and allowed a leadoff double by Chase Utley in the second before escaping a bases-loaded jam in the inning and cruising through the next four frames.

With the Braves trailing, 4-2, Gary Sheffield reached on a two-out infield single in the third and scored on Chipper Jones' double to the left-center field gap, drawing Atlanta within a run.

Millwood, who had won three of his previous four decisions, continued to unravel in the fourth. Robert Fick singled and Castilla walked before Ortiz advanced them with a sacrifice. Furcal followed with a single to score Fick with the tying run, but Castilla was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

DeRosa led off the fifth with a walk and Sheffield and Chipper Jones singled to load the bases. Millwood induced Andruw Jones to hit into a double play, but DeRosa crossed the plate to give Atlanta a 5-4 advantage.

Carlos Silva allowed a crucial run in the eighth to increase Philadelphia's deficit. With two outs, Javy Lopez doubled to left and Fick was walked intentionally. Castilla then singled to center, plating Lopez with the Braves' sixth run.

Center fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to third got away, but pinch-runner Ryan Langerhans was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.

Cunnane came on and got the first out in the ninth but walked Utley. Pinch hitter Pat Burrell took a called third strike, but Byrd singled to put runners on the corners. After a wild pitch moved the potential tying run into scoring position, Rollins grounded weakly to first for the final out.

The series continues Tuesday night with Randy Wolf (13-9, 4.08) going against Shane Reynolds (11-8, 5.36).


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