The victory improved the Phillies' best-in-the-majors record to 57-34 and extended their division lead to 3 1/2 games over the Braves, who, at 54-38, still have the second-best record in the NL.
"Taking a break on a high note, especially playing the Braves because they are such a good team and they are right behind us, it's good for all of us," said Cole Hamels, who finished off the finest first half of his young career, holding Atlanta to three hits and two walks while allowing one run and striking out six in eight innings.
Hamels improved to 11-4, lowered his ERA to 2.32 and showed exactly why he was voted into his second All-Star Game. (Because he pitched yesterday, Hamels is not able to pitch in the game.)
But it was the offense that made the strongest statement as every lingering question mark seemed determined to turn himself into an exclamation point before the break.
There was once-struggling veteran Raul Ibanez, who made a highlight-reel, above-the-wall catch and drove in six runs, three of them coming on his 12th home run.
There was seldom-used Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez, who had a career-high four hits in five at-bats while filling in for injured third baseman Placido Polanco.
There was recently called-up John Mayberry Jr., who hit a career-high three doubles and drove in four runs.
The Phillies took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning, then scored six runs to blow the game open. They added four more in the eighth to cap off what can only be described as a loud statement to the Braves, who entered the three-game series trailing them by 2 1/2 games. The Phillies took two of three games, winning their sixth consecutive series.
Seven of the eight regulars in the lineup finished with at least two hits, and all eight scored at least one run.
The performance provided a thunderous end to a first half that has been marked by injuries (Polanco and centerfielder Shane Victorino were not in the lineup all series) and imperfection (the Phillies entered yesterday ranked eighth in the NL with 370 runs). While the Phillies are expected to scour the trade market for a righthanded bat (Oakland's Josh Willingham and San Diego's Ryan Ludwick are two who would fit), they also hope the hitters they already employ will have more days like yesterday.
"We talk about our hitting, [but] if you look back we got enough hitting to win 57 games," Charlie Manuel said of a victory total that ties the team's pre-All-Star-break record. "Any way you want to cut it, you can say whatever you want to about it, we had to score some runs to win those games."
On Friday night, Ibanez' solo home run off Scott Proctor in the bottom of the 10th lifted the Phillies to a 3-2 victory. In the last five games, Ibanez went 9-for-25 (.360) with three homers, 13 RBI, six runs and no strikeouts. He finished the first half hitting .241/.287 (on-base)/.416 (slugging) with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 39 runs in 340 plate appearances. Last year at the All-Star break, he was hitting .243/.326/.397 with seven home runs, 39 RBI and 36 runs in 337 plate appearances. In the second half, he hit .309/.375/.494 with nine homers, 44 RBI and 39 runs in 299 plate appearances.
"Winning is always better, and being able to carry that into the All-Star break is definitely a nice thing," said Ibanez, who robbed David Ross of extra bases in the eighth inning with a leaping catch of a fly ball at the top of the wall. "It's a nice note to end on for the first half, but at the same time you know you have to come back ready to play."
Mayberry is hoping to convince the Phillies he can provide the type of righthanded power they seek. In four starts since Victorino's injury, the 27-year-old outfielder is 6-for-18 (.333) with four doubles and two homers.
"Pretty badly," Mayberry said when asked how much he wants to stick with the club for the second half rather than make his latest return to the minors. "That's obviously not really up to me. I'm just trying to put my best foot forward and play as well as I can when I'm given the opportunity."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.