Nate is great late as Braves rally, stun Phils
Homer in 10th follows dingers by Glaus, Heyward in ninth
ATLANTA -- Braves fans already knew Jason Heyward was capable of producing this kind of late-inning heroics. The Phillies would have liked Troy Glaus and Nate McLouth to wait a few more days to provide the reminder that they, too, can still come through in the clutch.
Down to their final out and dealing with the frustration that Kyle Kendrick had fed them, the Braves produced a dramatic long-ball display that carried them to a 4-3 10-inning win over the Phillies at Turner Field on Tuesday night.
Glaus and Heyward homered off Ryan Madson to tie the game with two outs in the ninth, and McLouth provided Atlanta its second successive walk-off victory with his leadoff homer in the 10th inning off Jose Contreras.
"This was the most exciting game I've ever been a part of," right-hander Tommy Hanson said after he and his teammates celebrated a dramatic win that was capped when McLouth hit Contreras' 2-2 split-finger fastball just over the right-field wall.
As McLouth rounded second, he noticed that all of the coaches and players had already started making their way toward the clubhouse. While he wouldn't take credit, it's believed this was something that Tim Hudson started planning last year in the event that any of the Braves hit a walk-off homer.
"I looked when I got around second [base] and everybody had gone [toward the clubhouse]," McLouth said. "I didn't know what to do when I crossed home, and there they were waiting for me in the tunnel. I kind of did the weird little dance before I got down there. I didn't know what to do, to be honest with you. I knew I had to slam the helmet at some point, so I did that when I crossed home."
McLouth would have never been able to experience the first walk-off homer that he can remember at any level had Atlanta not handed Madson his first blown save in four opportunities. Glaus turned a forgettable night into a memorable one with his two-out two-run homer. Two pitches later, Heyward added to his legend by going down and directing the Phillies closer's 0-1 changeup over the right-center-field wall for a game-tying homer.
"It can't happen every time, just like you can't win or lose every game, but it's nice to do it again today," said the 20-year-old Heyward, who leads the team with four homers and 16 RBIs after the first 13 games of his career.
Still energized by the fact that Heyward had delivered a two-run walk-off single with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday against the Rockies, the Braves managed to turn a 3-0 deficit into a one-run victory within a span of just four at-bats and nine pitches.
"These are the best kind to win," manager Bobby Cox said after his club moved into a first-place tie with the Phillies in the National League East. "They're also the roughest to lose."
After collecting just three singles and a double through eight innings against Kendrick, the Braves started their ninth-inning rally with Chipper Jones drawing a two-out walk. Two batters later, Glaus quieted those fans who started booing him during his forgettable fourth, during which he booted a Ryan Howard grounder in the top half and then grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and Heyward on deck in the bottom half.
Hitting just .181 as he strolled to the plate with two outs in the ninth, Glaus once again heard a chorus of boos. Three pitches later, after he had sent Madson's 1-1 fastball into the left-center-field seats, Atlanta's new first baseman had energized some of these same fans who had been showering him with boos just a few moments earlier.
"Obviously grounding into a double play with the bases loaded isn't what I'm looking for," Glaus said. "But at the same time, it felt like a good at-bat, I put a good swing on it. It just went right at him. That's stuff you can't control."
With their late-inning heroics, the Braves forced Kendrick to deal with the tough-luck no-decision he gained after allowing just four hits over eight scoreless innings. In addition, they prevented Hanson from losing three consecutive starts against the Phillies, dating back to last year.
Hanson allowed two earned runs and needed 102 pitches to complete 4 2/3 innings. He issued just one walk and was victimized by the fact that the Phils fouled off 23 of his pitches. Philadelphia drew first blood when Chase Utley opened the fourth with a check-swing double to left and scored on the Howard grounder that Glaus booted.
Having seen Hanson battle through a 30-pitch fourth, Cox opted to pull his 23-year-old right-hander after he surrendered a two-out fifth-inning double to Placido Polanco, who scored when Utley greeted Eric O'Flaherty with a single.
Kris Medlen allowed the Phillies to plate an insurance run in the seventh. But Jesse Chavez and Billy Wagner proved perfect during the final two innings to set the stage for the Braves to claim a victory that they will certainly cherish if this is the year that they prove capable of unseating the Phillies as the NL East champions.
"That's what we've done all season," Heyward said. "We hung in there, and it was a complete team effort."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.