Yes, the Braves got a brilliant performance from righthander Kevin Millwood, who is looking a lot like the pitcher who won 18 games three years ago.
And, yes, John Smoltz is one of the toughest closers in baseball, even if he did enter the game with a 27.00 ERA after being roughed up for eight runs in the ninth inning Saturday by the Mets.
But after scuffling to find some semblance of offense all evening, the Phillies got one run in the eighth inning, then put runners at first and third with nobody out in the ninth and still failed to get even.
"We had an opportunity and we let it slip away," Scott Rolen said. "Over the long haul, those things add up. We would have liked to have two games back last year and we've already let one or two slip away this season."
After Marlon Anderson doubled and advanced to third on Bobby Abreu's infield single, Rolen had the first chance to even the score in the bottom of the ninth.
He worked the count to 3-2 and looked for a fastball down the middle.
Smoltz gave him that pitch, albeit at 97 m.p.h.
Rolen popped up to second base and was met with a sprinkling of boos.
"That's a spot where I have to put the ball in play," Rolen said. "Even if I hit into a double play, we're still in the game. The only thing you can't do is strike out or pop up, and I popped up on a 3-2 pitch that was right there. It was a good pitch to hit."
It took just four pitches for Smoltz to strike out Travis Lee, the poster boy for the Phillies' offensive problems. Lee is hitting .115 (3 for 26) overall and .083 (1 for 12) with runners in scoring position.
Pat Burrell stepped to the plate with a chance to be a hero for the second straight game, but this time the Phillies' young slugger struck out and the Braves congratulated Smoltz on his great escape.
"I kept telling myself that I could get out of it and I believed it," Smoltz said. "I made good pitches. I didn't have my A game and I didn't have my B game, but I found a way to get it done. After three grueling days, I found a way to get it done."
After seven games, the Phillies' offense is not getting the job done. The team batting average is .226 overall and .176 with runners in scoring position. The Phillies have not reached 10 hits in a game yet, and they have scored three runs or fewer in all but one game. In four games against the Braves, they have scored a total of eight runs and gone 1-3.
"I'm not going to critique our approach at the plate after seven games," manager Larry Bowa said. "When we play 50 games, I might have something to say about our approach, but I'm not going to say something after seven games. You just hate to waste that kind of pitching performance."
Padilla, pitching with a stiff back, did not have the same control he exhibited during his first major-league start last week in Atlanta, but both the bottom line and his pitching line were equally as impressive. He once again allowed just one earned run in six innings, keeping his ERA at 1.50.
"His back was stiff and he really battled through some adversity," Bowa said. "He did a great job against a good lineup."
The Braves scored an unearned run off Padilla in the second inning when they took advantage of a two-base error by Abreu.
Gary Sheffield led off the second by hitting a low liner to right field that Abreu tried to field on a short hop. Instead, the ball bounced beyond him and rolled to the wall. Sheffield landed on third base and scored on a one-out slow roller to first base by B.J. Surhoff.
An inning later, the Braves got an earned run.
Marcus Giles, a hero Sunday in Atlanta when he beat the Mets with a three-run homer in the 14th inning, opened the third with a single to center field and advanced to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Millwood before being erased on Rafael Furcal's fielder's choice.
Padilla walked Andruw Jones for the second time, leaving him to face Chipper Jones, a trade no pitcher wants to make.
Jones fought off several two-strike pitches before delivering an RBI single to right field that gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
That's how things remained until the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Phillies went into the eighth with just two hits off Millwood - a second-inning single by Rolen and a seventh-inning single by Abreu. Millwood also had registered eight strikeouts.
With one out in the eighth, the Phillies quickly doubled their hit total and cut the Braves' lead in half.
Mike Lieberthal singled and scored from first on a double into the left-field corner by Doug Glanville.
For the first time all night, the small crowd of 14,502 came to life.
After Glanville's double, Cox waved in Mike Remlinger, who left Glanville stranded at second by retiring pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee on a fly ball to left field and Jimmy Rollins on a fly ball to right.
An inning later, the Phillies' level of frustration and futility reached its seven-game peak.
Contact Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or email@example.com.