Atlanta Braves from left; bench coach Walt Weiss, manager Brian Snitker, and shortstop Dansby Swanson greet Ender Inciarte (11) at the dugout after scoring on a Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis base hit in the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Braves top Phillies 8-3, move closer to clinching division

September 20, 2018 - 11:09 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — Luca Duda's pinch-hit double drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh, and the Atlanta Braves took an important step toward winning the NL East by beating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-3 on Thursday night.

Atlanta leads the second-place Phillies by 6 ½ games following the opening game of the four-game series. The teams close the season with three games at Philadelphia, but the Phillies need to win at least three of four in Atlanta to retain hope of making the final series meaningful.

The Braves have a magic number of four over Philadelphia to clinch their first division title since 2013.

Freddie Freeman had two hits and scored two runs. He has eight hits in his last three games.

Tommy Hunter (4-4), the Phillies' fifth pitcher, gave up a leadoff double to Dansby Swanson in the seventh. The left-handed hitting Duda pulled the run-scoring double into the right-field corner, giving Atlanta the 4-3 lead.

The Braves pulled away with four runs in the eighth.

Swanson, who had two hits, drew a bases-loaded walk from Luis Garcia in the eighth to force in a run. Pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson and Ronald Acuna Jr. drove in runs with back-to-back fly balls off Austin Davis, the Phillies' eighth pitcher, and Ender Inciarte added a run-scoring single.

Garcia gave up four runs without recording an out.

Jesse Biddle (6-1), the Phillies' 2010 first-round pick, gave up one hit while recording two outs in the seventh.

Braves right-hander Kevin Gausman allowed three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Vince Velasquez, who began the night 0-4 with a 7.41 ERA in his first four starts against Atlanta this season, allowed three runs on five hits in three innings.

The Phillies scored two runs on three hits, including RBI singles by Odubel Herrera and Jorge Alfaro, in the third.

Nick Markakis had a run-scoring single in Atlanta's two-run first off Velasquez. Freeman doubled in the third and scored from third on Johan Camargo's fly ball to center for a 3-all tie.

Chad Sobotka, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, struck out the side in the ninth to end the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said SS J.P. Crawford's shoulder was "a little sore." He said Crawford felt better hitting than playing in the field, and his status contributed to a lineup that included Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop and Carlos Santana at third base. 3B Maikel Franco (shoulder) was available off the bench.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.67) will start in Friday night's second game of the four-game series. Pivetta is 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four starts against Atlanta this season. For his career, he's 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA against the Braves.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (9-8, 3.97) is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this season.

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