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Rookie Brito shuts down Braves

Rookie Brito shuts down Braves

PHILADELPHIA -- These are the tense, must-win September games in which a veteran might be asked to lead the way to the postseason.

Then again, maybe it's Eude Brito, sans the tension.

Seemingly carrying none of the weight of a crucial game against the class of the National League East on his slender shoulders, the jovial rookie lefty tossed six shutout innings Monday in Philadelphia's 4-1 win over Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.

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"He didn't let papers that you read about the Braves or the pressure affect him, and that's what you need," said Kenny Lofton. "He just played the game."

"Did he even know it?" asked Billy Wagner. "Sometimes it's good to be thrown into the mix with no expectations. He went out there and did a great job. He set a good team down and gave us a chance."

Making his third Major League start and fourth appearance, the 27-year-old flirted with a no-hitter until Brian Jordan singled with two outs in the fifth. For trivia's sake, the last player to throw a no-hitter with less experience was the Cardinals' Bud Smith in September 2001.

Brito reigned supreme in shutting down an offense that includes a hot Chipper Jones and an MVP candidate in Andruw Jones. He preferred not to think about that.

"Some people [at home] were saying be careful with [Andruw Jones], and I didn't want them to say too many things," Brito said. "I didn't want to listen. I wasn't afraid to go after anybody. I wanted to make quality pitches and get people out, one pitch at a time."

The ever-changing NL Wild Card picture now has the Phillies one game behind the Marlins, who took over the lead by beating the Astros. Houston is a half-game out. For those looking at the NL East race, Atlanta leads Florida by six games and Philadelphia by seven.

Brito's brilliance provided a necessary elixir for the Phillies to keep pace in the Wild Card race.

This, despite most of the city's attention turned toward the Eagles' season opener against the Falcons in Atlanta. Many of the 21,169 fans -- the smallest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history -- wore football jerseys and broke out into Eagles chants.

"That's OK," said manager Charlie Manuel. "We'll keep winning and it will be back to baseball."

Brito efficiently used his fastball and changeup to befuddle the Braves.

"We've never done real well against guys we haven't seen before," said Chipper Jones. "If we face that guy in a week, I'm sure it will be a different story. He got the best of us. Chalk it up to never seeing him before and [Tim Hudson] not being spot on."

Hudson (12-8) was the only man to get past second base against Brito, when he doubled leading off the sixth and went to third on a single by Marcus Giles. Brito got out of the jam by inducing a double play from Chipper Jones.

Brito started the third with his first Major League hit, a slice that got past Giles. Kenny Lofton singled him to third and Bobby Abreu drew a two-out walk.

Pat Burrell plated the first two runs with a two-run single. The Phillies added two more in the third, started with a Jimmy Rollins single -- extending his hitting streak to 18 games -- and stolen base, and a Lofton bunt that turned into a single.

Brito ended his 84-pitch night with a double play and punched his glove to the appreciative crowd. He then realized what being a rookie is when he was "pied" by Tomas Perez during his postgame interview.

As he answered questions after the game, Brito still had the shaving cream in his hair and the ball from the final out in his hand. The ball from his first hit was in his locker. Both are heading to his mother.

Brito is already the most popular Major Leaguer in the history of Sabana de La Mar. More accurately, he's the only Major Leaguer from that Dominican Republic town, and he was sure that the entire population had gathered to watch the game on television.

"The whole town was watching," he said. "It's amazing to get my first win in a game like this."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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