PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe there's someone out there who didn't believethe Braves would chase down the Philadelphia Phillies.
Or maybe there's someone who believes this will be a close race.
Those folks live in Miami and Philadelphia.
But for the Braves, there was never any doubt.
After a three-month chase, the Braves caught and passed thePhiladelphia Phillies with Wednesday afternoon's 10-4 win before 31,991sunbaked patrons at Veterans Stadium, completing a three-game sweep andclosing out a perfect (6-0) trip to take over first place in the NLEast.
"I think we're amazed we're back in first base this quickly,"said third baseman Chipper Jones, noting the team was eight games backon June 1. "I think there was some urgency early in the season, but Idon't think anybody in here expected to catch them by the All-Starbreak. Fortunately we got hot at the same point they cooled off."
For the fifth time on the trip, the Braves scored eight or moreruns, and reached double-digit hits for the sixth time. They outscoredthe Mets and Phillies 50-17, and raised their collective battingaverage to .266.
As if the Phillies hadn't suffered enough, the Braves heaped on theabuse Wednesday, with every regular reaching base at least once with ahit or walk, and eight different players scoring runs.
"To me it was just a matter of time," said right fielder BrianJordan, who knocked in seven runs on the trip. "We knew if we startedplaying good baseball, we'd get on a streak and it would be a big testfor the Phillies."
The weather made the game a sweatfest.
The grounds crew stuck a thermometer into the fake grass before thegame and came away with a 150-degree reading. It was a bit cooler thanthat on the surface, but not by much.
"It was just sweat," said pitcher Odalis Perez, who threw 77pitches in five innings, and allowed the Phillies just three hits andtwo earned runs. "It was the first time I've pitched in such hotweather. At the end I was a little bit tired."
Don't suggest to Perez (6-5) that growing up in the Dominican makeshim immune to heat. He enjoys pointing out the Caribbean island istropical, and to reinforce his point, he mentions trade winds andgently swaying palm trees.
Perez, touched for an unearned run in the first, was gone threebatters into the sixth inning, when Jones' second error of the game,and successive walks to Brian Hunter and Bobby Abreu loaded the baseswith no outs.
Perez gave way to Steve Reed, who combined with Mike Remlinger,Jose Cabrera and Kerry Ligtenberg to pitch four scoreless innings,allowing four hits.
"If you throw five or six good innings, you know what kind ofbullpen we've got now," Perez said.
The Braves teed off on Phils starter Randy Wolf and the bullpen.Jones homered for the third time on the trip, crushing a 2 and1 delivery from Wolf in the second inning over the center field wall, adrive estimated at 416 feet.
Wolf (4-9) was dismissed after five with the Braves ahead, 4-1, butthe bullpen offered no relief. The Braves added three runs in the sixthagainst relievers Amaury Telemaco and Ricky Bottalico, the first comingwhen Telemaco plunked Mark DeRosa with the bases loaded, then Bottalicogave up successive walks to the Jones boys, Andruw and Chipper, forcingin two runs to make it 7-1.
Now the Braves head home to the not-so-friendly confines of TurnerField, where they are 18-16 this season, to host the Mets and Philliesfor their final homestand before the break.
"Now if we can put the same emphasis on home games as road games,we can hold everybody off," Chipper Jones said.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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