PHILADELPHIA – Whatever likelihood there was of Tommy Hanson appearing in a Braves postseason starting rotation, lately it appears diminished with each successive outing by the stalled right-hander.
Hanson allowed three homers and five runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the Phillies in Friday’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park, leaving him winless in seven starts including six in a row in which he’s pitched fewer than six innings.
“I feel like I’m battling my [rear[ off to help my teammates out and to help my team win, and as of right now I’m not doing a very good job," said Hanson, who is 0-4 with a 5.06 ERA in his past seven starts. "It was a horse[bleep] day. I’m not pulling my weight around here right now.”
The Phillies got consecutive fourth-inning homers from Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz to take a 4-1 lead and cruised to their 16th win in 21 games. They have an eight-game home winning streak and kept alive their faint wild-card hopes alive — the Phillies are three games behind St. Louis, which is second in the National League wild-card standings.
The Braves hoped to clinch a wild-card berth as soon as this weekend, but their “magic number” remained at five after their second loss in three games. They still have a six-game lead over the Cardinals in the wild-card standings with 11 games to play.
Atlanta remained 5-1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East after the Nationals blew a late lead and lost 4-2 to Milwaukee.
“We’ve got enough stress going on on the field, the last thing you’re worried about is whether Milwaukee is beating Washington right now,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was asked about scoreboard watching. “We’ve got to take care of our business. If we don’t take care of our business, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on behind us on the scoreboard.
“So that’s the main goal. You’ve got to win games. If you don’t win games, it doesn’t matter what’s going on on the scoreboard.”
Hanson (12-9) has allowed 21 earned runs and 41 hits (seven homers) in 37 1/3 innings over his past seven starts, and manager Fredi Gonzalez was non-commital about Hanson’s rotation plans going forward for the remainder of the regular season.
“Well, we’ll see where we’re at,” Gonzalez said, “but he’s one of our guys. Why not? Let him start…. But we’ll see where we’re at. We’ll take it game-by-game as far as getting to that. What have we got, six days before we get to that spot again? We’ll see where we are.”
Hanson gave up a triple to Juan Pierre off the right-center wall in the first inning, missing a homer by about a foot. Pierre, who has only only one homer this season and five in the past six seasons, scored on Chase Utley’s groundout for a 1-0 lead.
After the Braves answerd with a run in the second — Freeman had a leadoff walk and Dan Uggla doubled before Brian McCann’s RBI ground out — Hanson gave up a homer to No. 8 hitter Kevin Frandsen in the third inning to put the Phillies ahead to stay. It was Frandsen’s second homer of the season.
Hanson gave up consecutive homers in the fourth inning to a couple of Phillies more accustomed to hitting them, Howard and Ruiz. Howard has three homers and 14 RBIs in his past eight games, and against the Braves he’s collected four homers and 11 RBIs in his past six games.
A reporter asked Hanson if he thought all of the homers would have been out at some other, bigger ballparks.
“I don’t know. I mean, I pitched here and they went out,” he said. “I stink. Those pitches caught too much of the plate. And they didn’t just hit it in the gap or hit it hard for a single, they put it in the seats for the most part.”
While those back-to-back jacks in a three-pitch span hurt the most, when things really seemed off the rails for Hanson was during a four-pitch walk he issued to Kyle Kendrick with two out and nobody on in the fourth inning. Yes, a four-pitch walk to the opposing pitcher.
Hanson allowed only one hit that wasn’t a homer, but issued three walks, including one to Utley to start the sixth. He stole second base and went to third on a wild pitch, at which point Hanson was replaced after striking out Howard.
Reliever Cory Gearrin entered the game and gave up an RBI single to Ruiz on the sidearmer’s first pitch, pushing the lead to 5-1. Utley added a solo homer in the eighth off rookie Luis Avilan to give the Phillies a season-high four homers.
Kendrick (10-11) allowed five hits, two runs and one walk with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings, moving to 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA in his past eight starts. Against the Braves, the right-hander is 7-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 19 career games (13 starts).
The loss was just the Braves’ second in seven games this season in Philadelphia. They are 10-6 overall against the Phillies and finish their season series with two more games against them this weekend.