If the weekend’s events at SunTrust Park were a sign of things to come, the National League Wild Card race might prove to be much more interesting than expected. The Braves enhanced the potential intrigue as they received a career-best three doubles from Brandon Phillips while completing a three-game sweep of the slumping D-backs with a 7-1 win Sunday afternoon.
“It was fun and we got off on the right foot,” Braves outfielder Matt Kemp said. “That is a good team that we swept and we have to keep going. We’ve got another tough series coming up and it’s time to enjoy it tonight and turn the page [Monday] to get ready for the Cubs.”
Jaime Garcia set the tone for the afternoon as he allowed just four hits and one run over seven innings. Phillips provided a pair of RBI doubles and began the key four-run third inning with a two-bagger against Zack Godley, whose ERA rose from 2.58 to 3.09 as he allowed a season-high seven runs — six earned — over six innings.
“It is nice to get a win, but it is nicer for the team to win three games against a really good team,” Garcia said. “Everybody is playing well right now.”
Though they have lost a season-high five consecutive games and 11 of their past 14, the D-backs still lead the NL Wild Card race. The D-backs lead the Rockies by one game and have a 6 1/2-game lead over the Cubs.
“This is a very resilient group,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “They have been all year. They should be proud of where they’re at. We know we’ve hit a little stumbling block, and that’s part of the season. That happens in every baseball season, so we’ll enjoy the day off [Monday] and see what we can do on Day 1 in Cincinnati.”
The Braves now own a .500 record (45-45) after the All-Star break for the first time since 2014. They sit six games behind the Rockies, who currently are positioned to grab the second Wild Card entry.
Godley recorded a career-high nine strikeouts, but seven of those were recorded after he allowed Kemp and Matt Adams to homer during a four-run third inning. Kemp’s three-run shot to left-center field was his first long ball since June 21 and just his fourth extra-base hit since June 17. Adams’ solo shot to right-center was just the sixth homer the D-backs right-hander has allowed in 75 2/3 innings this season.
“They just squared some balls up,” D-backs catcher Jeff Mathis said. “Obviously he didn’t have his best stuff today, but they squared a few balls up and put some runs on the board.”
Cognizant that he might be traded within the next couple of weeks, Phillips either enhanced his value or gave the Braves reason to contemplate keeping him. The veteran second baseman delivered a key double during Friday’s series-opening victory and then recorded three-hit performances in the final two games. He scored Ender Inciarte with the RBI doubles he recorded during the first and fourth innings Sunday.
“[Phillips] was one step ahead of us,” Lovullo said. “Fastballs away, he’d hit them the other way. Fastballs in, he’d turn on them. Breaking balls, he’d hammer them. He’s a hot hitter. He’s a proven hitter. He’s a guy that’s been very successful in the National League, so you have to give him credit.”
Before their five-game skid, the D-backs were one of five teams in the Majors to not lose four consecutive games, along with the Dodgers, Astros, Indians and Red Sox.
Julio Teheran will take the mound when Atlanta opens a three-game series against the Cubs on Monday at 6:35 p.m. CT. Teheran has allowed at least six earned runs in four of the nine starts made at SunTrust Park.