video thumbnail

PHI@ATL: Utley belts a solo homer to center field

ATLANTA -- Roy Oswalt looks ready.

So do the rest of the Phillies.

They clobbered the Braves on Tuesday at Turner Field, 7-1, to tie the franchise record of 101 regular-season victories. The win also gave Charlie Manuel his 645th regular-season victory as Phillies manager, which tied Gene Mauch for the franchise record.

"Personal satisfaction?" Manuel said of tying Mauch. "I don't know. I'll get more out of it probably when I beat him. Second place is never good."

Yeah, Charlie, but you're tied for first.

"That's like being second," he said. "I want sole possession."

The Phillies are playing to win in 2011. There is no room for ties or second place. They have the best team in baseball with arguably one of the greatest rotations in baseball history and they want to take advantage of the opportunity.

They seem to be rounding into form at just the right time after snapping an eight-game losing streak Sunday with a victory over the Mets at Citi Field. The Phillies have won their last three games in convincing fashion, with the last two coming against the Braves, who are fighting with the Cardinals to win the National League Wild Card.

Late last week, Phils fans were worrying about their team. Now they can't wait for Game 1 of the NL Division Series, which is Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.

It seems like Philadelphia has flipped the switch at just the right time. Not that Manuel believes in flipping switches.

"That's not going to change my mind," Manuel said. "You just don't turn it on and off, pal."

Oswalt allowed three hits and one walk and struck out four in six scoreless innings in his final tuneup for the postseason. He is expected to start Game 4 of the NLDS, although nothing has been announced.

Oswalt looked his best in a long time.

Oswalt combined with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels for 25 innings in their final regular-season starts, allowing 16 hits, three earned runs and five walks and striking out 20 to post an impressive 1.08 ERA.

It has been a frustrating season for Oswalt, who missed much of the season recovering from a lower back problem. Oswalt can make his stamp on the season with a strong showing in the playoffs.

"I'm just looking to win that last game of the year," Oswalt said. "It doesn't matter who wins it as long as we do."

Chase Utley hit his first homer since Sept. 6 and just his third homer since July 29 in the first inning to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. The Phils scored two runs in the third and one in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead before Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer in the fifth and Jimmy Rollins hit a solo homer in the seventh to make it 7-0.

Rollins is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with two homers and four RBIs in his last four games.

Oswalt and the offense looked splendid Tuesday, but perhaps the most important sign was a clean inning from left-hander Antonio Bastardo. He went 0-1 with a 22.09 ERA in his previous seven appearances before throwing a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

It was his first perfect appearance since Sept. 2.

"I needed some work to be ready for the playoffs," Bastardo said. "I was working pretty quickly and didn't think too much about anything. Just let the ball go. I feel more confident now. I told you guys before, I feel so close. It's a little adjustment I had to make. I'm going to keep working that to get better and better."

Bastardo's improvement would be a huge relief for the Phillies, who are counting on him as the only lefty in the bullpen. The Phils have told left-hander Joe Savery he will head to Clearwater, Fla., to pitch in instructional league to keep sharp in case he is needed. The postseason roster isn't set in stone, but pitching coach Rich Dubee said after the game Savery isn't an option right now.

If Bastardo has turned things around, they won't need Savery. Actually, they won't need many relievers if the rotation keeps throwing like they have, and if the offense keep hitting like it has the last three games.

MLB.com Comments