ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves are doing their best to give away what looked like a certain playoff berth just a few weeks ago, and the St. Louis Cardinals are doing their best to keep pace.
Derek Lowe had another miserable outing, surrendering five runs in four-plus innings, and the Philadelphia Phillies romped to a 7-1 victory Tuesday night that left the Braves tied with St. Louis going to the final day of the regular season. The Cardinals were down 5-0 to the Astros after three innings Tuesday night but rallied to win 13-6 on 17 hits.
Chase Utley, Hunter Pence and Jimmy Rollins homered to back a three-hit outing by Roy Oswalt (9-10), who tuned up for the playoffs with a strong performance in a largely disappointing season.
The Braves lost their fourth in a row and eighth in 11 games, sending them to the final day of the regular season deadlocked with St. Louis.
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Atlanta had an 8½ -game lead just three weeks ago. If a tiebreaker is needed, it would be Thursday night in St. Louis.
Lowe (9-17) has been a $15 million bust for the Braves, losing all five of his September starts and drawing the ire of Atlanta fans. They cheered lustily when Manager Fredi Gonzalez popped out of the dugout to make a pitching change after Lowe gave up a leadoff single in the fifth, then showered boos on the high-priced right-hander as he trudged to the dugout — and straight to the showers without so much as a pause.
The NL East champion Phillies, winning their 101st game of the season, jumped ahead on the eighth pitch of the game. Lowe served up one to Utley, who drove it into center-field seats for his 11th homer.
An uneasy feeling settled over Turner Field. It would only get worse.
The Phillies extended the lead to 3-0 in the third on Rollins' run-scoring and Pence's sacrifice fly, the inning helped along by Lowe's ill-advised decision to try to get the lead runner at third on Oswalt's sacrifice. Carlos Ruiz beat the throw and everyone was safe.
The advantage grew to 4-0 in the fourth when two singles set up another sacrifice fly, this one by Placido Polanco.Philadelphia finished off Lowe in the fifth. When Rollins led off with a single, rookie Arodys Vizcaino relieved. But the youngster gave up a two-run homer to Pence.