ATLANTA - Watching Lance Cormier on Monday could have been either an encouraging or a frustrating experience for Braves fans - and probably a little bit of both.
Encouraging because Cormier pitched well in Atlanta's 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, as he has done in almost every start since mid-August.
Frustrating because if Cormier had stayed healthy and pitched like this all season, the Braves might be much closer to making the playoffs.
Don't count Cormier among the frustrated.
He was happy to earn his second win Monday after missing two months with a triceps strain and spending two months in the minors trying to regain his arm strength.
"There's a lot of what-ifs," Cormier said. "You just have to deal with what you're dealt. I was dealt a little injury, and I had a setback. But all I can make is what I have now and continue to finish strong and go from there."
Before the injury, Cormier led the Braves' pitching staff with a 1.15 ERA during spring training. His absence, combined with the loss of Mike Hampton to injury, forced the Braves to depend on a number of unreliable starters at the end of the rotation.
Remember Mark Redman?
Cormier struggled in two June starts and was sent down to Triple-A Richmond. But since re-joining the rotation Aug. 11, Cormier is 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA. Monday marked his first start in which he didn't allow a homer.
"This is the Lance Cormier we saw in spring training," catcher Brian McCann said. His last five outings, he's been unbelievable. His arm strength is back."
SORIANO REBOUNDS: Manager Bobby Cox stopped just short of naming Rafael Soriano the team's new closer after the right-hander retired the side in the ninth inning Monday.
After a bumpy mid-summer stretch, Soriano has not allowed a run in his past 7q innings pitched.
"He looks like a closer to me," Cox said. "He's throwing strikes and he's throwing hard. He had two good breaking balls today."
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ON TOP: With a sacrifice fly Monday, Jeff Francoeur collected his team-leading 85th RBI of the season. The Braves right fielder drove in 103 runs last season, his first full year with the club. Brian McCann and Andruw Jones are tied for second, with 84 RBI apiece.