Streaking Braves to face Phillies for division lead

After the franchise Golden Boys past (Chipper Jones) and present (Jason Heyward) delivered two-out, eighth-inning hits on Sunday and gave the Braves a 5-2 win and sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, something felt different at Turner Field.

There was real confidence in the Atlanta clubhouse before turning to a series against the Phillies. There was swagger based not on what the Braves once were, but what they are.

The Braves have won five in a row and 10 of 12 to erase all except a half-game from a 6-1/2-game spread between them and Philadelphia on May 17. They can overtake the National League East leader during a three-game home series that starts on Monday.

"[There are] no expectations as far as standings or anything right now," said Heyward, who wouldn't bite when asked if the Braves would be in first after the slumping Phillies leave town. "It's the end of May going into June. We just expect to go out and keep playing the way we have."

The rookie phenom answered the question as cool and as calm as he looked when facing an 0-and-2 count against Pirates left-hander Javier Lopez in the eighth inning, right after Jones had come up with a pinch-hit bloop single off reliever Joel Hanrahan to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.

Down in the count, Heyward did what he's done repeatedly in his first two months in the major leagues: come through in spectacular fashion. He sent an opposite-field drive to the left-center gap to bring in two runs, securing the Braves' major-league-leading ninth win in their final at-bat.

"I mean, it's becoming old hat," Jones said. "I honestly thought that he was going to do something special in that last at-bat. You're facing a left-handed submarine pitcher, you're 20 years old, never seen him before and he hits a rocket-shot triple, down 0-2. He's amazing. Nothing surprises me. He's playing like an All-Star."

Before converting that opportunity, the Braves wasted chances in almost every inning. They failed to score after loading the bases with none out in the second inning. They also left them loaded in the third. They had two runners on with one out in the fifth and again in the sixth, and failed to score.

"It's not often when you leave as many runners on base as we did today and come out with the win," Jones said. "We left the bases loaded a couple of times, with less than two outs. Against good ballclubs that will come back and bite you, but we were resilient enough today to get the job done late."

Prior to the seventh inning all of the Braves' runs were supplied by Troy Glaus, who had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a homer off Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm in the third. Glaus has collected five homers and a league-leading 25 RBIs in May.

Jones and Heyward lifted the team to another win, but  Kenshin Kawakami couldn't take credit for it. The tough-luck starter worked six scoreless innings before allowing a two-run, tying homer by Jeff Clement in the seventh. Clement hit the first pitch after Kawakami's nine-pitch leadoff walk to Garrett Jones, which included a disputed foul tip that Kawakami thought was a strikeout.

Kawakami left with the score 2-2 after 6-2/3 innings and remained winless (0-7) in 10 starts. He was charged with four hits and two walks.

"He's had back-to-back beautiful ballgames," manager Bobby Cox said.

The Braves enter the series with Philadelphia, which has been shut out five times while losing six of its past eight games, with the proper outlook.

"[We're] relaxed," Jones said. "It's not a series where we have to go out and win all three games to go out and feel good about ourselves, which is the way it's been the last year or two."