PHILADELPHIA — Another strong start from Mike Minor has the Atlanta Braves one step closer to erasing last year’s debacle.
Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer to back Minor and the Braves roughed up Roy Halladay to move closer to clinching a postseason berth with an 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.
The win, coupled with Milwaukee’s 10-4 loss to Washington, reduced Atlanta’s magic number for securing an NL wild-card playoff spot to three. The Braves were up 8½ games through Sept. 5 last year, but went 9-18 down the stretch and were overtaken by St. Louis on the final day of the season.
“I don’t want to hear anything about it,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said with a smile.
The Phillies fell four games behind the Cardinals for the NL’s second wild card spot with only 10 games remaining. The defending NL East champions had won 12 of 15 to climb back into the race.
Ryan Howard became the second-fastest player to reach 300 homers, but Halladay
(10-8) picked the wrong time to have the second-shortest outing in his 376 career starts.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner lasted less than two innings, allowing seven runs and five hits. Halladay’s shortest start – two outs on Sept. 10, 2006, for Toronto against the Los Angeles Angels – was because of an injury.
Halladay wasn’t 100 percent for this start. He said he felt spasms behind his shoulder on Thursday, but was cleared by doctors on Friday.
“I wish I could blame it on this, but I felt like I should compete,” he said. “I just didn’t do my job as a pitcher.”
Minor (10-10) gave up two runs and two hits in six innings to win his fourth consecutive decision.
“It’s just experience and having a better game plan,” he said. “You put things in your memory bank.”
The Braves remained 5½ games behind the first-place Nationals.
Howard connected for the fourth consecutive game, hitting a towering shot off the brick wall in straightaway center in the fourth. He reached No. 300 in his 1,093rd at-bat. Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner hit his 300th homer in his 1,087th at-bat.
Halladay didn’t look right from the start. He walked Michael Bourn to lead off the game, but picked him off. Martin Prado followed with a single and Chipper Jones hit a two-out single.
Freeman then sent an 0-2 pitch off a billboard in right field.
“The two-out hits were really big,” Jones said. “It was a good job by our hitters to take advantage of mistakes.”
Halladay has been bad in first innings this year, posting a 5.63 ERA in 24 games.
It didn’t get any better in the second.
Halladay walked two batters, including Prado to load the bases with two outs. Jason Heyward then lined a curveball into the right-field corner to make it 6-0.
That ended Halladay’s day.
“He didn’t have a whole lot,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He had a hard time putting the ball where he wanted it. Just one of those days. Rough day.”
Jones greeted Jeremy Horst with an RBI double for a 7-0 lead.
Darin Ruf, who hit 38 homers in Double-A to break Howard’s record for single-season homers at Reading, drove in his first career run with a sacrifice fly in the third.
NOTES: Jones’ single in the first moved him ahead of Lou Gehrig for 58th on the career hits list with 2,722. He’s one hit away from tying Roberto Alomar for fifth place among switch hitters. ... Freeman is 7 for 15 with three homers and nine RBIs off Halladay. ... Prado extended his NL lead to 37 multihit games. ... Bourn was 4 for 38 before a second-inning single. ... Phillies are 8-16 on Saturdays. ... Howard has three homers in 15 at-bats off Minor. ... Cliff Lee (6-7) faces Tim Hudson (15-6) in the series finale Sunday. Hudson is 9-9 vs. the Phillies, including 2-1 this year. Lee is 4-3 vs. Atlanta, 1-0 this season.