Kyle Phillips' first homer foils Braves

Kyle Phillips' first homer foils Braves

May 31st, 2011 by Associated Press in Sports

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann throws during a spring training baseball workout Friday, Feb. 13, 2009 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann throws during a...

ATLANTA - Kyle Phillips doesn't know how long he will have to impress San Diego Padres manager Bud Black.

Phillips did a good job of it Monday afternoon against Atlanta, however.

The catcher broke a 2-all tie in the 10th inning with a pinch-hit home run - the first big-league homer of his career - and the Padres held off Atlanta 3-2 Monday for their third straight win. Catcher Brian McCann drove in both Braves runs.

Phillips, who has a .167 average in 30 at-bats, admitted this opportunity is "a huge deal." He is on the 25-man roster as Rob Johnson's backup while Nick Hundley recovers from a strained muscle in his right side.

Leading off the 10th, he hit the second pitch from George Sherrill (1-1) into the right-field seats.

"He threw me a breaking ball that he left up a little bit, and I just put a good swing on it," Phillips said. "It's really nice to do it for the Padres. They're my hometown team, the team I grew up watching."

Heath Bell pitched the 10th for his 13th save in 14 opportunities. Chad Qualls (3-2) earned the victory with a scoreless ninth, giving up one walk and facing four batters.

For a fourth straight start, San Diego's Aaron Harang didn't earn a decision, but he was sharp, allowing six hits, two runs and two walks with five strikeouts.

Black credited Harang's nine-pitch fourth inning in helping him go six full innings and lower his ERA over his last three starts to 1.29.

"I think earlier in the game, his secondary pitches weren't consistently in the strike zone," Black said. "It kept him deep in the count; it kept him behind in the count. In the last three, he pitched better. He threw them for strikes."

Tim Hudson, the Braves' starter, allowed five hits and two runs - one earned - with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. He had missed his previous start with lower back stiffness.

Both teams scored in the first inning. The Padres' Eric Patterson singled, stole second, moved to third on Hudson's pickoff attempt and came home on Ryan Ludwick's groundout. Atlanta tied it at 1 on McCann's RBI double.

In the third, San Diego went up 2-1 on Ludwick's RBI bloop single. Harang scored from second on the play, but the journey was hardly pretty. On Alberto Gonzalez's flyout to center field, he was more than halfway to third base when Jordan Schafer caught the ball and bounced a throw to Dan Uggla, who bobbled the ball.

The 6-foot-7, 261-pound Harang made it back safely before Ludwick's hit sent him lumbering around the bases for his sixth career run scored. He's had 458 big-league at-bats.

"I got lucky on that one," Harang said. "I'm not used to running the bases out there, and [Gonzalez's] ball hung up more than I thought it would."

McCann's single scored Martin Prado from second to make it 2-2 in Atlanta's third.

Scott Proctor pitched a scoreless seventh for the Braves, Cory Gearrin had a scoreless eighth and Jonny Venters recorded a scoreless ninth after escaping a bases-loaded jam on Jorge Cantu's pinch-hit double-play groundout.

San Diego reliever Ernest Frieri escaped a jam in the seventh with runners on third and first when Prado popped out. In the eighth, Mike Adams stranded a pair of runners by striking out Alex Gonzalez.

Bell earned the save on flyouts by Prado and McCann and a strikeout of Eric Hinske.

Ludwick has 22 RBIs this month.

"As a group, we're really had a tough year," Black said. "Now we're starting to see some guys starting to climb as far as average-wise, which is great. I think there's more in there, too. I think there's more offense in this group."

But the big blast came from Phillips, whose previous stint in the majors came during five games with Toronto in 2009.

"It's the major leagues," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If you can swing the bat, you can hit one out."