PHILADELPHIA – After their flamethrowing rookie Mauricio Cabrera struck out three Phillies to escape a jam in the eighth inning and preserve a 4-4 tie, the Braves had the hot-hitting top of their order up to start the ninth. They did not disappoint. None of them.
The Braves got five consecutive hits to start a four-run ninth inning that sent them to an 8-4 series-opening win at Citizens Bank Park, their eighth win in 12 games and fourth in a row. The Braved trailed 4-0 after two innings and scored the last eight runs of the game.
“We want to finish strong,” said Kemp, who had four RBIs including a three-run, game-tying homer in the fifth inning. “We know we have a pretty bad record, but we want to feed off these last two months, especially September, and try to carry that over into next year.”
Ender Inciarte, Adonis Garcia, Freddie Freeman, Kemp and Nick Markakis all got hits in the ninth before the Phillies recorded an out in the inning, that on a Tyler Flowers sacrifice fly that pushed the lead to 8-4. Freeman drove in the go-ahead run with his second double of the game.
The Braves have scored at least seven runs in nine of their past 13 games.
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“We’ve been playing real good,” said Freeman, who had two doubles and two walks and became the first Braves player to have 70 extra-base hits in a season since Chipper Jones had 75 in 2007. “The offense has been showing up the last week or so – actually since Matty got here. Tonight doesn’t happen without Ender and Adonis and Matty.
“Matty got us back into the game. It was just nice to get some guys on, and we got them in in the ninth, and just kept going and going and going.”
Those first five in the Braves order were a combined 12-for-22 with four extra-base hits, seven runs and seven RBIs.
The Braves have hit .272 and scored 157 runs while going 15-15 in 30 games since Kemp joined their lineup, after hitting .252 and totaling 110 runs in their last 30 games without him (11-19). The 157 runs in the past 30 games are the second-most in the majors over that span.
The first four hits in the ninth came off closer Jeanmar Gomez, who has 34 saves and left without recording an out. He became the first Phillies reliever to give up at least four hits and four earned runs in a game without getting an out since Brad Lidge in 2008, also against the Braves.
Kemp, who had a game-tying three-run homer in the fifth inning, chased Gomez with an RBI single in the ninth and Markakis followed with a run-scoring double against Colton Murray.
“They’re hitting, man,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “Some good at-bats, too. Matt hit the homer, but that add-on run was just a good piece of hitting. He’s an RBI guy. Some guys have a knack of driving runs in. He and Freddie drive runs in, they love those situations and you feel good with both of them up there.
“Ender big hit leading the (ninth) inning off. Garcia. The whole top of the lineup. They just keep doing it.”
The Phillies got consecutive singles against reliever Cabrera to start the eighth with the score 4-4, but the power-armed rookie — he leads the majors with an average fastball velocity of 100 mph — struck out Aaron Altherr on a 103-mph heater, struck out Darin Ruf trying to check his swing on a slider, and struck out Freddy Galvis looking at a 99-mph third strike.
Braves rookie Joel De La Cruz, perhaps near the end of his rope as a starter this season, was 0-7 overall and 0-3 with a 6.52 ERA in his past four starts before Friday, when things were rough again in the early going.
In the first inning, he gave up a leadoff walk and two-out RBI double to Ryan Howard, and the Phillies started their second inning with a Darin Ruff leadoff single, Freddie Galvis double and A.J. Ellis three-run homer. Just like that, the Braves trailed by four runs before De La Cruz recorded his fourth out.
But after the Ellis homer, De La Cruz retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced and allow only one more runner to reach second base. He lasted five innings and was charged with six hits, four runs (all earned) and two walks with five strikeouts.
Kemp’s three-run homer to center field was his 27th of the season and fourth as a Brave, and made it four consecutive games in which the Braves scored at least four runs in one inning. He has 12 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs in 30 games for the Braves, batting cleanup between Freeman and Markakis.
The Braves trailed 4-0 when Gordon Beckham led off fifth inning with a double, advanced on a De La Cruz bunt and scored on an Inciarte single that extended his hitting streak to 13 games. One out and a Freeman walk later, Kemp stepped into the box, got behind in the country 0-2 swinging at two change-ups, then took a change-up for a ball and fouled off yet another change-up before homering on a hanging curveball.
Inciarte had three hits to give him 18 multi-hit outings in his past 32 games, a torrid stretch in which he’s batted .394 with 12 extra-base hits.