Originally created 08/08/06

Phillies' fifth dooms Braves



ATLANTA - A fired-up John Smoltz said Sunday that the Atlanta Braves had better "wake up" on their current homestand.

The veteran's terminology seems apropos since they appear to be caught in a nightmare lately - especially at Turner Field.

After a 9-6 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, Atlanta is now 1-6 in its past seven home games. And the team lost another starting pitcher when lefty Horacio Ramirez departed in the fifth inning with a mysterious injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand.

The preliminary diagnosis by the Braves' medical staff was an "injury to the soft tissue," something eerily similar to an injury that cost John Thomson three months last season.

Ramirez is expected to have an MRI exam as soon as possible to determine the extent of the damage.

Oscar Villarreal spelled Ramirez in what was a 2-1 game, and then he spelled disaster.

He warmed deliberately, but didn't look loose as he gave up four runs of his own, and an inherited one from Ramirez (5-5), in Philadelphia's five-run fifth that shoved the Braves into a six-run deficit from which they could never recover.

Cincinnati got drilled by St. Louis, so the Braves (51-60) are still 5 games behind the Reds in the wild card picture. But with other teams in front of Atlanta winning - Philadelphia, included - the picture is getting bleaker.

The Braves attempted to pull themselves out of the hole with Marcus Giles' two-run home run and Jeff Francoeur's two-out RBI single in the fifth.

Still 7-4 in the seventh, Francoeur came up with Giles and McCann, who had three hits and is hitting .349, on base and two out. But Ryan Madson struck out the 22-year-old to end the threat.

In the eighth inning, Philadelphia struck for a pair of insurance runs off Ken Ray and Macay McBride. That made Andruw Jones' two-run home run in the ninth far less meaningful.

Jones' bat shattered as the ball sailed well over the center field wall for his 27th homer of the year.

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