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Phils back Kendrick early, sink Braves

Phils back Kendrick early, sink Braves

ATLANTA -- Before they turned the National League East into a muddled mess and their normally potent offense went quiet, the Phillies were one of the hottest teams in baseball, fresh off a sweep of the reeling Braves.

That momentum ended in Atlanta, however, when the Phillies proceeded to drop 13 of their next 18 games.

Back in Atlanta three weeks later, they seem to have rekindled some of those good feelings just in time for a critical stretch that could determine where this season leads.

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On the strength of Kyle Kendrick's six-plus innings and four RBIs from Shane Victorino, the Phillies resumed their recent dominance of the Braves with an 8-3 win on Tuesday night at Turner Field.

With the win, Philadelphia is now 1 1/2 games ahead of Florida in the National League East standings. The Phillies are 6-1 against the Braves this season.

The Phils play 19 games this month against NL East opponents. Tuesday was a promising start to that daunting stretch.

"We were struggling a little bit, but guys are starting to swing the bats now, and guys are starting to pitch a little better, and we'll be all right," said Kendrick, who, along with ace Cole Hamels, has kept the Phillies in the division race, even though they have lost nine of their past 12 games.

Kendrick improved to 6-0 in his past 11 starts against NL teams, and the Phillies are 11-0 overall in those starts.

After tossing eight scoreless innings Wednesday against the A's, Kendrick held the Braves without a run for the first six innings.

"He was sailing along there tonight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Kendrick.

Then Kendrick said he briefly lost his concentration. He allowed the first three batters to reach base in the seventh inning, and his night was done after a two-run double by pinch-hitter Greg Norton trimmed the Phillies' lead to 5-2.

Kendrick said that mental lapse ruined what was an otherwise great outing, one that once again put the Phillies in a position to win the game.

"Kendrick has been nice to have since he showed up," Manuel said, later adding, "He's been absolutely great for us. I don't know what we would have done last year or this year without him."

J.C. Romero relieved Kendrick with a runner on second base and no out in the seventh. He got Gregor Blanco to ground out before walking two batters to load the bases. After an RBI groundout by Mark Teixeira, Romero induced two harmless groundouts to second, and emphatically pumped his fist before walking toward the dugout.

"It's something the bullpen has been doing all season, and he came in and shut the door and stopped that momentum," said Victorino, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning off Braves starter Charlie Morton.

Entering the ninth with a two-run lead, Pedro Feliz had a sacrifice fly and Victorino slapped a two-out, two-run single that gave the Phillies a comfortable 8-3 lead they could turn over to Brad Lidge.

Nearly the entire Phillies' order had its way with Morton, who surrendered six straight hits to start the four-run third. The Braves rookie was chased after allowing five runs in two-plus innings, the shortest outing of his young career.

Six of the Phillies' top seven hitters in the order had at least two hits Tuesday, a good sign after batting .181 in their past 11 games.

"We all hit well and it seemed like we haven't been doing that, but it was nice to get some hits and drive in some runs and score some runs," Victorino said.

Pat Burrell, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, became the second Phillies player to hit at least 20 homers in eight consecutive seasons when he went deep off Morton in the second inning. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt is the only other Phillie to accomplish the feat, as he hit 20 or more in 14 straight seasons from 1974-87.

Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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