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Eyre Force: Phillies 3, Braves 2

It wasn't exactly a repeat of their August 14 showdown, but once again Joe Blanton and Jair Jurrjens squared off Sunday night, once again both pitched very well, and once again the Phillies came away with a hard-fought 3-2 victory. Blanton tossed his tenth straight quality start (and 16th in his last 18 starts), holding the Braves to one run--a Martin Prado solo homer in the first inning--on three hits over seven innings, striking out seven. Jurrjens matched him for the first six innings, allowing only a Chase Utley solo home run that tied the game in the fourth and needing only 75 pitches to do it. 

Ultimately it came down to defense--specifically, two plays the Braves didn't make, and one the Phillies did. Raul Ibanez led off the bottom of the seventh with his second walk of the night off Jurrjens, the only two allowed by the Atlanta starter. Pedro Feliz followed with an excellent bunt to the left side that Chipper Jones barehanded in time to make the play, but threw beyond the reach of Adam LaRoche to give the Phillies runners at second and third with no outs. Carlos Ruiz, already 2 for 2 in the game, launched a fly ball toward the left field corner that Garret Anderson came up just short on, the ball trickling out of his glove as both runners scored to give the Phils a 3-1 lead. 

Ryan Madson came on in relief of Blanton for the eighth, and immediately got into trouble by hitting Matt Diaz and allowing a full-count single to Prado. Madson got ahead of Jones 1-2, but the veteran hitter pulled a changeup through the hole on the right side and Diaz beat Jayson Werth's throw home, cutting the lead to 3-2. On came Scott Eyre, appearing for the first time in two weeks, to face Brian McCann. After falling behind, McCann lashed a line drive to the right side that Chase Utley snagged on one hop and threw to Jimmy Rollins at second--and Rollins, seeing that Prado was not even halfway to third, fired to Pedro Feliz who ran Prado down for the second out. (McCann, who had taken a big turn, dove back to first just ahead of Rollins' return throw bid for the Phils' second triple play in a week.) Eyre stayed on to retire Anderson on another grounder to Utley and end the inning, showing some emotion as the throw reached Ryan Howard's glove. 

Brad Lidge came on for the ninth and retired the Braves 1-2-3 for the second time this weekend, striking out Greg Norton on a slider to end it. The win restored the Phillies' NL East lead to eight games over both the Braves and Marlins, as they enjoy an off-day before hosting the San Francisco Giants, co-leaders for the NL wild card playoff berth after a weekend sweep of the Colorado Rockies.