Originally created 09/22/05

Howard closes door on Braves



ATLANTA - The Braves were teased with the idea of an emotional, come-from-behind victory against the second-place Phillies.

Ryan Howard's 10th-inning grand slam capsized that notion with one swing.

Adam LaRoche's game-tying, three-run homer in the seventh had revived hope. Howard destroyed it in a hurry in Philadelphia's 10-6 victory at Turner Field that served to keep the Braves' magic number to close out the NL East at six.

For weeks and weeks during the summer months, talk - and a certain widely popular sports magazine cover - in the baseball rookie world revolved around Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur, whose bat has cooled since a torrid start.

If Howard, a 26-year-old rookie, hadn't taken the torch already, he grabbed hold of it Wednesday partly thanks to Francoeur.

With his grand slam, Howard has 19 homers and 54 RBI in 71 games.

With a man on first, Chase Utley hit a fly that Francoeur lost in the lights as he retreated toward the right field wall. The ball skipped back to him, but the Phillies had something going against rookie Kyle Davies (7-4).

After David Bell was intentionally walked, pinch hitter Shane Victorino bounced to third, where Chipper Jones threw home for a force out.

It was beginning to look as if Atlanta could slink out of the inning unscathed. Howard's shot off newly inserted John Foster shot that.

That squandered work by the pen in previous three innings to induce frame-ending double plays after getting into any trouble. It also made LaRoche's dramatic shot moot.

It wasn't long ago that LaRoche was in the worst slump of his short career. He hit .105 in 19 games from Aug. 20-Sept. 13. But he has rallied from that sophomore slump to go 11-for-26 with three homers and six RBI in his past seven games since Sept. 14.

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.