Phillies Suffer An Offensive Hangover In 4-2 Loss

We've all seen it before. The Phillies offense explodes only to fall apart the next night. The offense that put up 18 runs Tuesday was nowhere in sight Wednesday as the Phillies struggled against rookie left-hander Horacio Ramirez. The rookie shut down the Phillies as the Braves beat the Phils 4-2, dropping the Phillies one game behind the Florida Marlins in the NL Wild Card race.

Javy Lopez added to his career year and helped the Atlanta Braves establish a franchise record in the process.

Lopez belted his 39th homer and Atlanta's 216th of the season and Horacio Ramirez tossed seven solid innings as the Braves avenged Tuesday's shellacking and knocked the Philadelphia Phillies out of the National League wild card with a 4-2 win.

With Atlanta trailing by a run, Lopez led off the second inning with a blast over the center field wall. It also broke the single-season team record for homers, set in 1998. The homerun also drew Lopez within three of tying Todd Hundley's single-season record for catchers (41), set with the New York Mets in 1996.

Gary Sheffield's RBI single in the third put Atlanta ahead for good as it won for the fifth time in seven games.

After erupting for 18 runs Tuesday, Philadelphia was limited to two solo homers. Ramirez (10-4) won his second straight decision, allowing six hits and striking out seven. Will Cunnane struck out two in a perfect ninth for his third save.

Vicente Padilla (13-10) was tagged for four runs and nine hits in six innings. The Nicaraguan right-hander, who lost for just the second time in eight decisions, walked five and struck out just one.

Pat Burrell and Tomas Perez homered for the Phillies, who fell one game behind Florida in the hunt for the NL wild card berth.

The victory was the 1,897th of Cox's career as a major league manager, moving him past Bill McKechnie into 11th place on the all-time list. It also reduced to six Atlanta's magic number for clinching a 12th consecutive division title.

The Phillies threatened to take a first inning lead for the third straight game as Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins started the game with singles. Ramirez induced a double-play grounder by Bobby Abreu before getting Mike Lieberthal to ground out. Lieberthal went hitless, snapping his career high 13 game hitting streak. The Braves also missed an opportunity in the bottom of the first when Marcus Giles doubled with one out, but was stranded at third.

Burrell gave the Phillies the lead with one out in the second, belting his 21st homerun of the season. The advantage was short-lived as Lopez opened the bottom of the inning by crushing a 2-2 pitch to knot the game.

Rafael Furcal led off the bottom of the third with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice. Sheffield followed with a single to put the Braves ahead, 2-1.

Ramirez made the lead stand, retiring 12 straight batters before Perez swatted his second homer in as many days with two outs in the seventh.

After squandering a bases-loaded opportunity in the fourth, Atlanta increased its lead in the fifth. With one out, Chipper Jones doubled to right-center and advanced on a throwing error by Byrd. Andruw Jones made it 3-1 by hammering a 2-0 pitch to deep left field, barely missing his 34th homer and settling for an RBI double.

In the sixth, Padilla retired Ramirez but walked Furcal and Sheffield around a popout. Chipper Jones followed with a single to right, plating Furcal for a 4-1 cushion.

The series wraps up Thursday night with Brett Myers (13-7, 4.17) going against Greg Maddux (14-10, 3.96).

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