Hudson, Braves extend Cox’s final season, hold off Phillies 8-7 to earn at least 1 more game

By Charles Odum, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Braves hold off Phillies 8-7, extend season

ATLANTA — Bobby Cox’s career was extended for at least one game.

Tim Hudson and the Braves took a six-run lead, then held on for an 8-7 victory over the Philadelphia Philliees on Sunday that assured Atlanta would at the very least force a tiebreaker playoff for the NL wild card.

“We try hard,” said Cox, who is retiring after this season. “This team is the hardest-working, hardest-trying team we’ve ever had here.”

Atlanta recovered after 11-5 and 7-0 losses in the first two games of the series. After the game, the Braves waited for San Diego’s game at San Francisco.

A Padres win force a pair of tiebreakers and push the regular season until Tuesday — San Diego and San Francisco would play Monday to determine the NL West champion, then the loser would play at Atlanta the next day for the wild card.

A Giants victory would give the Braves would the NL wild card — and a first-round playoff matchup starting in San Francisco.

Hudson (17-9) allowed four runs and two hits in seven innings against the NL East champions, giving up two-run homers by John Mayberry in the third and Jayson Werth in the seventh.

Billy Wagner struggled in the Phillies’ three-run eighth but recovered with a perfect ninth.

“It’s a relief because you get a tomorrow,” Wagner said. “We knew we had to win the game. We knew what was at stake.”

Omar Infante and embattled infielder Brooks Conrad each had two hits and drove in two runs for Atlanta, and Derrek Lee homered.

“The bats came alive, which was great to see,” Cox said. “We had much better hitting than we’ve had lately.”

Cole Hamels started for the Phillies, and Roy Oswalt relieved in the third.

Hudson left with an 8-4 lead. The Phillies scored three runs off Jonny Venters and Wagner in the eighth. After allowing an RBI single by Wilson Valdez and pinch-hitter Ben Francisco’s two-run double, Wagner struck out Raul Ibanez to strand runners on second and third.

Wagner, who like Cox is retiring after the season, struck out Shane Victorino, Brian Schneider and Greg Dobbs in the ninth — each on called third strikes — for his 37th save in 44 chances.

“The shadows helped, no doubt,” Wagner said. “They could see fastballs but they couldn’t see the spin of breaking balls.”

Braves fans in the sellout crowd began chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” after the final out. The celebration on the field was brief and low key. The players turned their focus to the Padres-Giants game on every TV in their clubhouse.

The Phillies, hoping for a successful warmup for their postseason run for a third straight World Series appearance, had two injury scares.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz left after he was hit by a pitch on his left elbow in the third inning. X-rays were negative.

Left-hander J.C. Romero walked slowly off the field with left lower back soreness following a pitch in the sixth. He said he already had soreness and expects to be available for the playoffs.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel used his starting lineup.

“We thought we’d give our best to the Braves,” Manuel said. “We came back and we had a chance.”

Hamels threw two hitless innings of 30 pitches in a tuneup for a Game 3 playoff start.

Manuel used much of his bench in the final innings.

“They’ve got some valuable playing time and some at-bats,” Manuel said. “We got our work in. I feel good about that.”

Cox moved Conrad from third base to second base after the rookie’s two throwing errors in losses the previous two days.

Conrad’s errors on throws to second base led to a combined seven unearned runs against the Phillies on Friday and Saturday. Cox said he made the change for Conrad’s “peace of mind.”

Conrad, who played most of his minor league career at second base, had a fielding error on a grounder by Ibanez in the fifth, but Hudson pitched out of trouble.

Hudson kept the Braves’ four-run fourth live with a run-scoring single off Danys Baez (3-4) that set up Infante’s two-run triple.

Atlanta had 14 hits off eight pitchers. Jason Heyward had two hits, including a run-scoring triple in the third. Matt Diaz had three hits and drove in a run.

Mayberry, pinch-hitting for Hamels, drove in Ruiz with his third-inning homer to left field after Hudson hit Ruiz with a pitch.

Oswalt, the Game 2 starter, followed Hamels and gave up Heyward’s triple to cut Philadelphia’s lead to 2-1.

Baez allowed four runs and five hits while recording only two outs in the fourth.

Phillies closer Brad Lidge gave up a hit to Heyward and two walks in the eighth but ended the inning when Alex Gonzalez hit into a double play.

Notes: Attendance was 52,613 for an Atlanta-record three-game total of 158,048. Atlanta’s previous best attendance total for a three-game series was 150,095 for a visit from the Cardinals in 1998. … GM Frank Wren presented Cox a crystal baseball on the field before the game in recognition of Cox’s 2,500th win on Sept. 25 at Washington. … Heyward made a leaping catch of Victorino’s drive before crashing into the right-field wall.

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