Braves spoil Phillies' playoff push

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - September 24, 2008 The Phillies entered 1½ games ahead of the New York Mets in the division. They will finish the regular season with a three-game series against the last-place Washington Nationals, starting Friday.

Ryan Howard hit his major league-leading 47th homer and Chase Utley also went deep for the Phillies. But Brett Myers (10-13) got roughed up for the second straight start.

Benches and bullpens emptied with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Braves reliever Julian Tavarez and Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino exchanged words.

Victorino was leading off third base when Tavarez inexplicably decided to chase him back to the base. Victorino chuckled and said something as Tavarez returned to the mound. Tavarez turned around and came back at Victorino. Players ran onto the field and umpires intervened before any punches were thrown.

Myers allowed six runs - four earned - and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings. He was coming off the worst start of his career in which he gave up 10 runs in four-plus innings in a 14-8 loss to Florida. Reliever Buddy Carlyle (2-0) retired the two batters he faced to earn the win for the Braves, who got their second straight victory over Philadelphia.

Myers got knocked out in the fifth after the Phillies had tied it at 3. He walked Martin Prado with one out and Brian McCann's RBI double gave the Braves a 4-3 lead. After Casey Kotchman was intentionally walked, Chad Durbin replaced Myers.

Omar Infante hit a grounder to first baseman Howard, whose errant throw to second allowed McCann to score. Howard leads the Phillies with 18 errors. Brandon Jones' two-out RBI single made it 6-3.

Scott Eyre came in to face Chipper Jones, who drove one to the seats in left for a 9-3 lead. Jones passed Duke Snider for 42nd on the all-time list with 408 career homers.

The Phillies have to be concerned that Myers could be reverting to his first-half form after pitching like an ace for the past 2½ months. Myers, the team's opening-day starter, was demoted to the minors on July 1 after he went 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA in his first 17 starts. He was 7-2 with a 1.80 ERA in 11 starts before facing the Marlins last Friday.

Myers got in trouble early. Josh Anderson led off with a double and Kelly Johnson followed with a single that extended his hitting streak to 22 games. Prado and Kotchman had RBI singles to make it 2-0.

Utley ripped a two-out shot to right in the third for his career-best 33rd homer. Howard led off the bottom of the fourth with a deep drive to center to tie it at 3.

Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes allowed three runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings. The left-hander was 0-7 with a 7.79 ERA in his previous 12 appearances.

A crowd of 41,430 at Citizens Bank Park had no reason to wave their "Fightin' Phils" rally towels. Many used the white-and-red hankies to keep warm on a crisp night. The Phillies set a season attendance record, surpassing their total of 3,250,092 in 2004. Three "suspicious" packages found outside the first-base entrance to the ballpark forced the evacuation of some fans and stadium personnel two hours before the game, though the Phillies continued taking batting practice.

Police detonated the package, which turned out to be a prop used in a commercial shoot involving the Phillie Phanatic. It contained hot dogs heavily wrapped in white packaging and duct tape that were used as projectiles by the Phanatic's hot dog launcher. Notes: Utley had 21 homers in the first 59 games this season, but only 12 in the next 100. He had 32 homers in 2006. ... The Phillies finished 14-4 against the Braves, including 9-0 in Atlanta.

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