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Phils' magic number down to four

Phils' magic number down to four

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PHILADELPHIA -- Greg Golson sprang to his feet after sliding across home plate to score his first Major League run. The 23-year-old subtly clapped his hands once and turned toward the Phillies dugout.

That's when it hit him. Golson accepted giddy high-fives from Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell. He looked over to see an excited Jayson Werth standing on first base.

"That was a big moment for me," Golson said after scoring the go-ahead run in the Phillies' 6-2 win over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

After spending most of 2008 as a standout center fielder for Double-A Reading, the young Golson found himself called upon Monday night to be one of the key actors in the Phillies' push for a National League East title. His run was the start of a four-run rally that included a three-run homer by Pat Burrell.

The Phillies have won 10 out of their past 11 games and are playing some of their hottest baseball of 2008 at exactly the right time.

The Phils' win Monday, combined with the Mets' loss to the Cubs, gave Philadelphia a 2 1/2-game lead over New York in the NL East with five games to go. It reduced Philadelphia's magic number to clinch the division to four.

If the Phillies win Tuesday and the Brewers lose to the Pirates, Philadelphia will secure at least a tie for the National League Wild Card.

Never one to get ahead of himself, manager Charlie Manuel wasn't ready to write off the Mets or the Brewers.

"We've got a game tomorrow," Manuel said. "We've got five left. We've got a game tomorrow. We're concentrating on winning that one starting right now."

With the game tied at 2, Greg Dobbs led off the eighth with a base hit. Golson, who had appeared in only three games since being called up on Sept. 1, was then picked to pinch-run for Dobbs.

"He's the fastest guy we have to get from first to home," Manuel said.

That speed was on display for all to see when a pickoff move from Braves reliever Jeff Bennett sailed wide of first base and Golson raced to third. With one out, Bennett intentionally walked Chase Utley. As Werth stepped to the plate, Golson was instructed to run on contact -- otherwise, a ground ball might result in a double play and kill any chance of a Phillies rally.

When Werth grounded sharply to third, Golson broke for home, sliding across the plate just ahead of the tag from Braves catcher Clint Sammons.

He was greeted at the plate by Burrell and Howard -- and 36,796 towel-waving fans.

"No knock on Reading, but it's a little bit louder here," Golson said with a laugh.

Golson wasn't the only recent callup enjoying the September spotlight Monday night. Pitcher J.A. Happ made his fourth start of the season for the Phils and second in the past week. The 25-year-old kept the Braves guessing early, holding Atlanta to one hit through the first four innings and retiring 11 batters in a row between the second and fifth.

However, Happ ran into trouble in the sixth. He walked Martin Prado and Kelly Johnson followed with a two-run home run that tied the game.

Still, Happ's 2008 stats have been impressive. In four starts, he has posted a 2.28 ERA (six earned runs in 23 2/3 innings).

"That's what we dream about in the Minor Leagues," Happ said. "Coming up, getting a chance, trying to prove ourselves."

Kevin Horan 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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