PHILADELPHIA - Last week, when Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur threw out his 11th baserunner since being called up July 7, his teammates and manager Bobby Cox shrugged.
They said it didn't surprise them and that they expected it.
So, the real surprise came Tuesday, when the rocket-armed rookie didn't cut down a runner at the plate. A slow one at that.
Philadelphia's Ryan Howard took off from second base after a two-out single in the sixth, and Francoeur's throw was off the mark, up the third-base line.
Howard scored to give Philadelphia a 5-4 lead, which held up for the Phillies' second win in a row over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies, still very alive in the postseason hunt, now trail Atlanta by six games in the East.
Florida won in Houston and is five back of the Braves with 17 games left.
Howard's decision to test Francoeur wouldn't seem like a bright one because Francoeur has thrown out as many runners as any other outfielder in the National League - players who started compiling stats in April.
But Howard lumbered down the line and past catcher Brian McCann, who had to move 10 feet toward third to field the throw.
Phillies third base coach Bill Dancy's choice to send Howard, all 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds of him, surprised reliever Blaine Boyer, in hindsight. Boyer (2-2) gave up Howard's double and catcher Lieberthal's base hit to set up the play.
"Knowing that it was going right to Jeff and (Howard) isn't exactly a speed merchant or anything like that, I guess it's surprising," Boyer said.
John Thomson had a two-run lead entering the bottom of the fifth, thanks to Andruw Jones' bases-clearing, two-out double.
The hit boosted his season RBI total to 124. That puts Jones 11 behind Eddie Mathews' 1953 mark of 135.
With that newly inherited advantage, John Thomson stumbled in the bottom of the fifth.
With two out, Jimmy Rollins doubled off Thomson to extend a hit streak to 19 games. Kenny Lofton's third hit in three at-bats against Thomson scored Rollins. Then, Chase Utley, who seems to have a knack or clutch hits against Atlanta, tied the game with a double that plated Lofton on an 0-2 pitch.
Thomson left after five innings and 74 pitches, with four runs allowed on eight hits.
The right-hander hasn't won since returning from a finger injury Aug. 13.
The bottom line is, in the past two nights, the Phillies won games with rookies Eude Brito and Gavin Floyd on the mound against Atlanta's Tim Hudson and Thomson.
Apparently, there's some fight in the Phils.
"They're getting clutch hits at key times," Thomson said. "It's like they're clicking on all cylinders right now."
Reach Travis Haney at email@example.com.
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