PHILADELPHIA - This is how bad it has become for the Atlanta Braves.
The Philadelphia Phillies generated more offense in one inning against maybe the scariest closer in baseball than the Braves did in nine innings against Vicente Padilla and two relievers.
"I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming," left fielder Chipper Jones said minutes after the Phillies rallied for three runs in the span of five batters to beat the Braves 3-2 on Thursday at Veterans Stadium. "The baseball gods weren't working for us today."
John Smoltz, called into the game after Mike Hampton surrendered back-to-back singles after 7 1/3 hitless innings, was buried under a flurry of Philly squibs, none more harmful than Placido Polanco's game-tying single just over the leap of first baseman Robert Fick in the eighth.
There was, however, one hit that was squashed rather than squibbed: the leadoff double by Pat Burrell in the ninth, a line drive that bounced against the wall in left-center, setting the stage for Jimmy Rollins' game-winning single two batters later.
"That's the nature of this job," said Smoltz, who had not yielded a run since May 10. "Obviously, the whole game changes on that one (Polanco) swing. I feel the game is over if I get him out. It's not a devastating loss, but it's a game we normally win."
The Braves, who managed 10 runs in splitting the first two games of the series, got a pair of home runs from Gary Sheffield and a collective 5-for-29 from the rest of the lineup. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and got one-out doubles from Javy Lopez in the seventh and Mark DeRosa in the eighth and were unable to push them across.
"Very disappointing," Sheffield said. "I thought two runs was going to be enough with the way Hampton was pitching."
Hampton came into the eighth inning having thrown 98 pitches. Only two Phillies had advanced beyond first base - Polanco drew a walk and advanced to second in the first, and Padilla walked in the sixth and moved to second on Lopez's passed ball. Padilla was stranded at third when Hampton induced Phillies slugger Jim Thome to hit a harmless fly to Andruw Jones in center.
After coaxing an infield roller from Todd Pratt to start the home half of the eighth, Hampton watched Marlon Byrd bloop a single in front of Sheffield in right, pinch hitter Tomas Perez lined a single to right and manager Bobby Cox waved in Smoltz.
"It would have been easy to fold up our tents," said Phillies manager Larry Bowa, whose ninth-inning cap-throwing tantrum earned him an ejection. "We're down, we're getting no-hit and facing the best reliever in baseball. When we were getting no-hit, there wasn't much enthusiasm on the bench."
Smoltz, who had converted 67 of his past 69 save opportunities, struck out Bobby Abreu, bringing up Polanco, who was 1-for-5 lifetime against Smoltz. Polanco broke his bat in delivering a soft single just over Fick's outstretched glove, sending both runners to the plate.
"He made a defensive swing and got a hit," Smoltz said. "I thought I made the pitch I needed to make to get out of the inning."
Padilla pitched seven innings in a 3-0 win over the Anaheim Angels in his last start, but Sheffield ended his shutout streak at 10 innings with a fourth-inning home run, launching a 94 mph fastball into the left-center field seats.
That was Padilla's only mistake of consequence until Sheffield took him deep again in the sixth. This time he was fooled by a 2 and 1 slider but tucked the ball just inside the left field foul pole at the 330-foot sign.
"I don't mind getting fooled," said Sheffield, whose 21 home runs are one shy of Adam Dunn's league-leading total. "My thing is balance. As long as my hands are back, I'm still capable of hitting the ball out of the park."
So, are the Braves concerned about an aftereffect? Hardly.
"We lost one in Oakland and two in Seattle, why would this one stick with us?" Cox said.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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