Heyward's error costly in loss to Phillies
Beachy effective in debut, but Braves fall four back in East
PHILADELPHIA -- Brandon Beachy gave the Braves everything they could have hoped for while making his first Major League appearance just two days after learning that he might get this opportunity.
Unfortunately, it will be a debut forever marred by a drifting fly ball that barely eluded Jason Heyward's glove and allowed the Phillies to inch closer to a fourth consecutive National League East crown.
Heyward's inability to secure Shane Victorino's fly ball provided the spark that allowed the Phils to tally two unearned runs in the fifth inning and begin this key divisional showdown against the Braves with a 3-1 win Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.
"It knuckled," Heyward said. "He inside-outed it and it got in the wind. I got a great jump right off the bat with it. I was right there the whole way. I didn't take it lightly at all. I wanted to hurry up and get under it as fast as possible. The last few rotations there took it out of my reach."
After Victorino began the bottom of the fifth with the slicing liner that drifted toward right-center and hit off the edge of Heyward's glove, the Phillies constructed a 27-pitch fifth that included just one hit, two seemingly strategic walks and a pair of RBI groundouts that proved decisive for the Phillies, who now own a four-game lead over the Braves in the NL East race.
With 11 games remaining, the Braves still have a two-game lead in the Wild Card standings.
'We want to win every game we play," catcher Brian McCann said. "We got stuffed tonight by [Cole] Hamels and we've got to move on and get ready for [Tuesday]."
McCann's second-inning RBI double accounted for the only run that Hamels surrendered during a seven-inning effort that prolonged his recent run of dominance. The Phillies left-hander has allowed just two earned runs in his past 38 1/3 innings.
Hamels surrendered three of the six hits he surrendered to begin the second. Matt Diaz followed McCann's double with a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. But Alex Gonzalez struck out and Melky Cabrera ended the threat by producing one of the three double-play groundouts induced by Hamels.
"Beachy did awesome tonight," Diaz said. "He did everything we asked him to do. He gave us a chance to win and unfortunately it's been the song of our September, we didn't score enough runs for him."
After allowing the Phillies three runs (one earned) and four hits in 4 1/3 innings, Beachy didn't allow himself to feel any satisfaction or blame his inconsistent command on the fact that he learned that he would make this start about four hours before the first pitch, after Jair Jurrjens' sore right knee proved troublesome in a light bullpen session.
"I'm not really happy with the way I threw the ball today," Beachy said. "That's not up to the standards I set for myself. No matter what the result is, whether they swing and miss or hit a home run, I want the ball to go where I want it to go and that just didn't happen very often tonight."
Since being informed Saturday at about 8 p.m. ET that he might make this start, Beachy tried to keep his emotions in check. This marked the first time he pitched since his final start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sept. 3.
Over the past couple of weeks, the 24-year-old right-hander had been keeping his arm fresh while throwing at the club's Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. In other words, he was in an environment far different than this sold-out one, filled with raucous Phillies fans awaiting the chance to celebrate another trip to the postseason.
"I thought he pitched great," McCann said. "Coming into this atmosphere and making your Major League debut, you couldn't ask for anything more."
Battling an adrenaline rush, Beachy was up in the zone during the first two innings and paid the price when he allowed second-inning doubles to Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. These doubles produced the only run he would allow before Heyward was charged with the three-base error that put Victorino on third base with nobody out in the fifth.
Victorino scored uncontested courtesy of the Placido Polanco RBI groundout that followed. Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez fielded Polanco's grounder and looked toward the plate before throwing to first base to record the first out. Gonzalez seemed upset with his decision, but Braves manager Bobby Cox felt it was the right one.
"It would have been a banger [at the plate]," Cox said. "If he'd have missed there, that might have opened up the gates too."
Chase Utley followed with a single that ended Beachy's debut and prompted the entry of Eric O'Flaherty who carefully pitched to Howard and Jayson Werth while issuing consecutive walks to load the bases. This set him up to face the left-handed Raul Ibanez, who produced the ground ball the Braves were seeking.
But the soft grounder forced Gonzalez to range too far to his right to turn the double play that would have ended the inning.
Meanwhile, Hamels benefited from his three double-play groundouts. After seeing a potential game-tying homer go just foul in the seventh, Martin Prado grounded into a double play for the second time and essentially killed what was his club's last prime scoring opportunity.
"We hit some balls really good right at them," Cox said. "But when he had to, [Hamels] made the pitches."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.