Uggla's slam in 9th lifts Braves past Phillies

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz tags out Atlanta's Jason Heyward during a rundown in the third inning.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz tags out Atlanta's Jason Heyward during a rundown in the third inning. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: April 16, 2014

Domonic Brown glided over first base while the remnants of a nearly empty stadium jumped in shock. He pounded his red Phillies helmet with his right fist. He smashed 27 homers in 2013; the first one of 2014 did not arrive until his 52d plate appearance, and what a moment it was.

Seventeen minutes later, no one remembered. A Dan Uggla grand slam cleared the bases in the ninth inning. It pushed the Atlanta Braves to a 9-6 victory. For the Phillies, all that remained was a bullpen fire.

"We've got to figure out a way to bounce back," outfielder Marlon Byrd said, "and make sure this doesn't snowball into something bad."

The two division rivals played Monday night for the first of 19 times. They exchanged crushing blows, but none as powerful as Uggla's. The Phillies scored five eighth-inning runs but could never overcome a pitching shortage.

Jake Diekman, asked to close because Jonathan Papelbon pitched the three previous days, walked two batters. He induced a grounder to Chase Utley, who flipped it to second in an attempt to get a force, but not in time. Then Uggla destroyed an 0-1 slider that landed on a blue seat.

Diekman was told before the game he would close. He fired 98-m.p.h. fastballs in a quest for his first save. But his first five pitches were balls. He looked too excited, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

"Maybe a little," Diekman said. "But you can't start off hitters 2-0 every time."

This four-game series is hailed as an early measuring stick. But Atlanta, the reigning National League East champion, arrived at Citizens Bank Park for the first time in 2014 and confronted a Phillies team that lacked its full complement of pitchers.

Sandberg was without Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo, who also pitched in the previous three games. The manager said he wanted to avoid using B.J. Rosenberg, who pitched in two straight games. But he appeared in the eighth inning for a third day of work.

It lasted three hitters. The fans who dotted the left-field stands were pelted with baseballs. The bare-knuckled Evan Gattis destroyed a hanging Rosenberg slider for his second homer of the game. Uggla, five pitches later, mashed a Rosenberg fastball deep into the night. Andrelton Simmons whacked a slider, Rosenberg's 17th pitch, for yet another home run. Three batters. Three homers. Sandberg asked for a new arm amid mock applause.

Rosenberg, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was the first reliever since at least 1914 to face three hitters and allow home runs to all three.

Mike Adams, the $12 million setup man who underwent shoulder surgery last summer, expected to be activated Monday, but Sandberg said there was "a joint decision to give him an extra day." The other available righthanded relievers were Jeff Manship and Luis Garcia.

That is, in part, because Phillies starters have failed to pitch more than six innings in 11 of the team's first 13 games. The bullpen is taxed.

Roberto Hernandez could not complete six innings in his first two starts. He appeared fatigued Monday in the sixth when Gattis smacked an elevated sinker to right for a two-run homer.

"Well, we'd like that to change just to help our bullpen out," Sandberg said. "We have just been using the bullpen guys for quite a bit of innings. They have thrown a number of pitches."

The Braves, meanwhile, touted their belated $14 million addition, Ervin Santana, who tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in six innings. He fired one mistake - a 94-m.p.h., belt-high fastball that Ryan Howard smashed for a solo home run - and improved with time. He fanned five of the final six Phillies he faced.

Brown erased all despair with his swing. Pitchers have adopted a different approach to Brown. They are feeding him pitches away, and Brown was content with hits to the opposite field. When Luis Avilan offered a 92-m.p.h. inside fastball, Brown struck. Somehow, it was not enough.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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