PHILADELPHIA -- Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp came up big Friday night in an 8-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
They went a combined 5-for-8 with five RBIs, which included Kemp's three-run home run in the fifth inning to tie the game and a couple of clutch hits in the ninth against Phillies closer Jeanmar Gómez to give the Braves the lead for good. After Ender Inciarte and Adonis García started the ninth with singles, Freeman doubled to score Inciarte to give the Braves the lead. Kemp followed with a single to score Garcia for an insurance run before Atlanta tacked on two more for good measure.
"Those guys, they're hitting, man," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "They're getting good at-bats, too. Matt, he hit the homer, but that add-on run was just a good piece of hitting. He's just an RBI guy. Some guys have a knack for driving runs in. He and Freddy drive runs in. They love those situations. Ender, big hit leading an inning off. The top of the lineup guys just keep doing it."
• Kemp, Inciarte lead Braves' new-look offense
Gomez has been one of the Phillies' better stories this season, transitioning from middle reliever to closer. But he has an 11.57 ERA (nine earned runs in seven innings) in eight appearances since August 14.
"I feel really good," Gomez said. "My velocity is the same and my pitches are moving. I threw a lot of good pitches."
"You don't really think you're gonna score four in the ninth off of one of the best closers in the game," Freeman added. "It was nice for us to do that."
Joel De La Cruz allowed four runs over five innings for the Braves while Jeremy Hellickson went six innings and also allowed four runs.
"The guys give me a four-run lead, that's got to stand," Hellickson said. "For me to make that mistake in that situation definitely overshadows the rest of the game. It doesn't really matter what I did in the other 17 outs. Guys give me a 4-0 lead we have to win that game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Shut 'em down:Mauricio Cabrera's eighth inning was a thing of beauty as he was able to keep the game tied at 4. The Braves' flame-throwing reliever allowed a pair of singles to Ryan Howard and Maikel Franco to begin the frame, but neither moved from there. Cabrera continued to register triple digits on the radar gun as he mowed down Aaron Altherr, Darin Ruf and Freddy Galvis.
"You look at him, he gets in trouble and it's like again he's in the backyard playing catch," Snitker said. "Situations don't bother that kid. He's another one that just keeps pitching. He stays within himself and just keeps pitching and uses all of his pitches. He throws really hard but he doesn't necessarily try and go harder when he gets in trouble. … He's just got a good feel for things."
Big Piece delivers: Howard and manager Pete Mackanin talked before the game about comments Mackanin made earlier this week about Howard's playing time. Howard said they cleared the air and then continued his strong second half with a 2-for-4 performance. He doubled to score the team's first run in the first inning. More >
Hot bats stay heated: It was the usual suspects delivering the blows for the Braves. Freeman extended his on-base streak to 25 games with two doubles -- one to drive home the go-ahead run -- and a pair of walks, one of which he scored on via a homer off Kemp's bat. Kemp's homer was his fourth since he debuted as a Brave exactly a month ago and his 11th since the All-Star break. And, as usual, Inciarte was the catalyst of it all. His three hits from the leadoff spot gave him his 18th multi-hit game in his last 32.
"We've got some dangerous hitters in this lineup," Kemp said. "Guys that have been there and done that. I really feel the first two guys are setting the table for us offensively. Then me, Freddie and [Nick] Markakis and the rest of us, we're just feeding off of that. You can't really score runs without those first two guys getting on base and doing what they're doing."
Ellis goes deep:A.J. Ellis hit a three-run home run to right field in the second inning to hand the Phillies an early 4-0 lead. It was Ellis' first homer since joining the Phillies last week in a trade with the Dodgers. Ellis, who had two RBIs in his Phillies' debut last weekend against the Mets, has five RBIs in three games. He later doubled in the ninth inning.
"It felt good to get us a lead there, some separation," Ellis said. "Felt good about our team there with Helli going. Give the Braves credit. They battled back."
"We've got to bunch hits together. When we jump out quick like that and score four runs, it looks like a good sign, but we just didn't add on. We couldn't bunch hits together. The offense is an issue. We've got to improve." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on the team's offensive struggles
"We wanna finish strong. We know we've got a pretty bad record but we want to feed off these last two months, especially September, and try to carry that over into next year." -- Kemp, on the Braves' resiliency
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Howard's .957 OPS is the 11th best among National League players since June 22 (minimum 100 plate appearances).
The Phillies challenged a play at first base in the seventh inning. They thought David Hernandez might have picked off Inciarte, but replay quickly showed Inciarte beat the throw. The replay official in New York confirmed the call.
Franco ventured so far away from the second base bag in the eighth that Galvis motioned at him to get back even as he was taking a 99-mph fastball in the dirt. Braves catcher Tyler Flowers saw the same and fired to second. Franco barely skedaddled back in time. The Braves challenged and the call was upheld.
Braves:John Gant starts for the first time since straining his left oblique on June 27 on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. He was activated Aug. 21 but hasn't made a start. Instead, he's appeared twice out of the Braves' bullpen, allowing two runs over three innings.
Phillies: Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.21 ERA) pitches the second game of a three-game series. The Phillies are monitoring Velasquez's innings, so it is unclear how many more starts he will make in 2016. But he certainly hopes to build upon last weekend's start against the Mets at Citi Field, when he allowed one run in five innings.
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