Another Phillips homer lifts Braves over Brewers

Brandon Phillips #4 of the Atlanta Braves hits a third inning two-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers at SunTrust Park on June 24, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Brandon Phillips #4 of the Atlanta Braves hits a third inning two-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers at SunTrust Park on June 24, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Brandon Phillips gave the Reds his OK to trade him to his hometown team this year. That decision is working so well for Phillips that he hopes the Braves will keep him around after this season.

Phillips’ go-ahead, two-run home run in the third inning Saturday sent the Braves on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Brewers at SunTrust Park. It was the third consecutive game with a homer for the Stone Mountain native.

The Braves (36-38) won their fourth consecutive game and are 9-3 since losing three in a row to the Mets. They improved to 20-19 at home, the first time they’ve been above .500 at the new ballpark since they were 5-4 there following a victory over the Mets on May 2.

Phillips, 35, is in the final year of his contract, with the Reds paying $13 million of his $14 million salary. The Braves acquired him in a February trade after Phillips chose not to invoke his no-trade protection.

“It feels good to come home and play in front of my family and friends and being around my babies all the time,” Phillips said. “I’m just happy the Braves gave me an opportunity to play in front of the hometown like this. Hopefully I can do it more than one year. We are playing good, and hopefully things will work out the way everybody in this clubhouse is thinking. We are having fun.”

The Braves secured the series victory over the Brewers after winning their previous three. It’s the first time they’ve won four consecutive series before the All-Star break since the 2014 season.

The Braves are 25-18 since starting the season 11-20.

“I think we are starting to do well in every facet,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We are doing what we are capable of doing, what we know we are capable of.”

The Braves are 7-2 on the homestand that concludes Sunday against the Brewers (40-37). Phillips has had a lot to do with their good run at home.

Phillips beat the Marlins with walk-off hits in consecutive games last weekend. His leadoff home run against the Giants on Thursday started an eight-run inning in what turned out to be a one-run Braves victory. Phillips had two RBIs, including a solo homer, against the Brewers on Friday night in another one-run victory.

Phillips was 2-for-4 against the Brewers on Saturday to improve his average to .306 and his on-base percentage to .349. His career-highs in 12 previous full seasons in the majors are the .300 average and .353 OBP he posted with the Reds in 2011.

“He’s been doing it all year,” Flowers said. “He’s hitting .300 with some homers, that’s good for your second baseman. And he always comes up with big hits, too, it seems like.”

Phillips’ latest homer broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning. Brewers right-hander Matt Garza left a 2-1 slider over the plate, and Phillips smashed it 390 feet and over the left-field wall.

“Only thing I can really do is just go out there and be myself and play the game the best way I know how,” Phillips said. “Keep a smile on my face and do what’s best for the team.”

The Braves couldn’t generate much more offense against Garza. They didn’t need it with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitching seven effective innings for the second time in as many starts.

Dickey limited the Brewers to a run on five hits (four singles) with one walk and six strikeouts. After the Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Dickey retired 17 of the next 20 batters. He was efficient, too, with 71 strikes on 99 pitches.

Dickey held the Giants to no runs over seven innings in his previous start.

“It wasn’t maybe as good of movement (on the knuckleball) as I’ve had in, maybe, the last three games,” Dickey said. “I had a good enough one to be able to change speeds with and it was in the strike zone a large percentage of the night. Those things add up to a pretty good outing usually.”

The Brewers scored their run on Hernan Perez’s fielder’s choice single, but Dickey limited the damage after they loaded the bases with one out. The Braves tied the score in the bottom of the first inning on Flowers’ RBI single.

Braves relievers allowed two base runners over the final two innings, but neither made it past first base. Left-hander Sam Freeman struck out Brewers sluggers Eric Thames and Domingo Santana to end the eighth.

“It’s been a good homestand,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve played good baseball. All up and down the lineup, the bullpen, starting pitching. It’s been everything. I don’t think it’s anything spectacular, but guys are playing the game and coming out here and expecting to win right now.”

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