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PHI@ATL: Ibanez singles to give the Phillies the lead

ATLANTA -- The Phillies promised things would be different this week.

They had played without emotion, focus or offense during an eight-game losing streak last week. Fans had started to panic. Their team had been on pace to win 106 games on Sept. 17, the night the Phillies clinched their fifth consecutive National League East championship, but entered Sunday needing to finish 2-2 just to reach 100. But the Phillies got their 100th victory Monday night in a well-played 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

It marks the third time in franchise history they have won 100 or more games in a season. They can tie the franchise record of 101 victories (set in 1976 and '77) with a victory Tuesday or in the regular-season finale Wednesday.

"A lot of people say you can't turn it off and on, but I've seen us do it a lot of times," Phillies right-hander Brad Lidge said. "I think you can."

The Phillies said as recently as Saturday in New York, where the Mets swept them in a doubleheader at Citi Field, that once they reached Atlanta they would turn things around. The Braves are playing for their postseason lives, trying to hold off the Cardinals to win the NL Wild Card. Not that the Phillies were trying to play poorly last week, but they figured a little extra juice squeezed from a postseason atmosphere would help.

Or maybe the Phils just needed everybody on the field. They snapped their losing streak Sunday with a 9-4 victory over the Mets. It was just the fifth time since Hunter Pence joined the team July 30 that the Phillies have had their everyday lineup.

Monday night was the sixth.

They are 6-0 in those games.

The Braves had a 2-0 lead after the second inning, when the Phillies came back. They tied the game in the fifth when Jimmy Rollins hit a solo home run to right field. They took a 3-2 lead in the sixth when Shane Victorino hit a one-out triple and scored on Raul Ibanez's single through the drawn-in infield. Ibanez singled and scored in the eighth inning to make it 4-2.

The lefty-swinging Ibanez's two hits came against Braves left-handers Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters.

"I thought we were ready to play," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "To be honest with you, after the first two innings, I gave us a 99.9 percent chance of winning. I really felt like we were going to win. But that's what good ballclubs do. They just kind of chipped their way back into it."

Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee allowed five hits and two runs in six innings. He finished his regular season 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, and looks more than ready for the postseason. He could start Game 2 of the NLDS on Sunday.

But what about the bullpen? Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before the game he is searching for somebody to throw in the eighth inning as his setup man. Lidge is making a case for himself. He is 0-2 with a 1.47 ERA this season. The innings haven't always been clean, but he has been effective.

Lidge doesn't see why he can't be the guy.

"No, but I've also been out for four months," he said, referring to right shoulder and right elbow injuries. "It's his call, kind of his choice as to what he wants to do, but he keeps throwing me out there. Again, I know what I'm capable of, so I feel it's the least I could do to be able to throw that inning."

The Phillies have 10 or more hits in three consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 8-10 in Milwaukee. Roy Halladay and Lee threw well in back-to-back games, and the bullpen pitched effectively in critical situations Monday in a game the Braves desperately needed to win.

Philadelphia seems to be back on track.

The Phillies had the Cardinals-Astros game on TV in the visitor's clubhouse afterward. With St. Louis' extra-inning loss, Atlanta remained one game up in the NL Wild Card race.

Manuel said he knows which team or teams he would like to face in the NLDS beginning Saturday, but he would not say. His players certainly have their opinions, too, although it is doubtful they are scared of anybody.

If they play like they've played the last two games, it shouldn't matter. Comments