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Perez leads Braves to first series win in five weeks

There’s not usually much of a middle ground with Braves right-hander Williams Perez. His results often have teetered between very good and not good at all since he made his big-league debut in May 2015.

Perez had a great day against the Phillies on Saturday, which also happened to be his birthday.

Perez shut out the Phillies for 6 1/3 innings to lead the Braves to a 2-0 victory. The Phillies had just two hits and three base runners against Perez, who turned 25 years old.

Perez said he was happy to pitch on his birthday.

“My two-seam was working today and my change-up, too,” he said. “Every hitter, every pitch (was) good location. It was a good job.”

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The Braves (12-30) won consecutive games against the Phillies (24-19) to secure their second series win of the season in 15 chances. They hadn’t won consecutive games since sweeping a three-game series at the Marlins on April 15-17 and then beating the Dodgers on April 19.

Perez was perfect through 3 2/3 innings before David Lough singled. Perez retired the next six batters until Tyler Goeddel singled against the right-field wall. Those were the only hits the Phillies managed against Perez, who struck out four batters and walked one.

Perez had drastically different results in his previous two starts since he was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. He was an emergency starter against the Phillies on May 11 and held them to a run over eight innings, but the Pirates roughed him up for six runs in six innings Monday.

Braves coaches have encouraged Perez to trust the quality of his pitches and throw strikes. He sharp in the rematch against the Phillies with 58 strikes on 90 pitches.

“Even when he fell behind a couple guys 3-0, he’s really starting to just trust his stuff right there and say, ‘All right, I’m going to throw three sinkers and make them put it in play,’” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That’s big. That eliminates momentum that can be created by walks. Real good command today and we were able to elevate a little bit at times, too, which I think messes with hitters more especially with a ‘sinker-baller.’ His change-up was effective, and we threw enough breaking balls to make them be honest.”

Braves interim manager Brian Snitker pulled Perez after he walked Maikel Franco with one out in the seventh. Ian Krol and Jason Grilli each retired the one batter they faced to end the inning. Grilli pitched a perfect eighth, and Arodys Vizcaino retired the side in order for his fifth save.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth inning after Jeff Francoeur led off with a single and Nick Markakis followed with a walk. Ender Inciarte hit a looping drive that center fielder Odubel Herrera dived for and missed, allowing Francoeur to score with one out. Inciarte stole third base with Erick Aybar at bat, and Aybar drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

The teams played on through a rain that became steady in the fourth inning and heavier in the later innings. Snitker said he pulled Perez in part because he’d lost some momentum with the delays between innings as the grounds crew worked on the mound and infield dirt.

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