Braves' late rally falls short

Ramirez struggles; late rally falls short

PHILADELPHIA -- Even after staging a late rally that made things appear much closer than they really were, the Braves still had to admit they were thoroughly dominated by Brett Myers at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, they, too, had to realize they had just seen Horacio Ramirez encounter another inconsistent performance that halted his recent string of encouraging success.

Ramirez's multiple two-out mistakes, combined with the mastery of Myers, allowed the Phillies to claim a 6-3 win that would have appeared much more dominant had the Braves not shown a pulse during a three-run ninth inning.

"That's one of the better pitching performances I've seen against us all year," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "[Myers] was just absolutely dynamite."

Myers limited the Braves to just one baserunner through the first eight innings and had retired 20 straight before Wilson Betemit and Julio Franco began the ninth inning with consecutive singles. A wild pitch and Marcus Giles two-run single later got the Braves right back in the game, but it wasn't enough.

It was a different Myers than the one who had lost both of his previous two starts against the Braves this year. Instead of trying to pitch them away, he spent much of his time trying to jam them with inside fastballs.

Unfortunately for Ramirez, who allowed six earned runs and eight hits in just 4 2/3 innings, he wasn't getting the same type of complimentary comments from his manager.

"He was inconsistent today," Cox said. "He made too many bad pitches."

Ramirez, who had won his previous four decisions and each of his past three starts, was the first to admit Cox was completely correct to provide what for him was harsh commentary. The 25-year-old southpaw knew allowing five two-out runs was an offense that couldn't be forgiven.

"I didn't pitch that well today," Ramirez said. "When I needed to make a pitch, I didn't make one. That was evident with the final score."

After the Braves sliced the Phillies' advantage, veteran closer Billy Wagner retired the only two batters, Andruw Jones and Brian Jordan, he faced to end the ninth and preserve the dominance of Myers, who allowed three earned runs and four hits in 8 1/3 innings.

"[Myers] was solid," Giles said. "He just used both sides of the plate. Later in the game, he started mixing his curveball in there. That kind of threw a wrench into our spokes."

Ramirez's performance came at a bad time, because it had appeared he was ready to carry some of the load with three of his fellow starting pitchers on the disabled list. In his pervious two starts, he had allowed just one run and totaled 12 innings.

"I'm surprised I had one like this," Ramirez said. "You don't go out there thinking you're going to go 4 2/3 [innings] and give up six runs. The past two games I felt were the best two of the season for me. I was expecting to come in here, go deep into the ballgame and keep the team in it."

"That's one of the better pitching performances I've seen against us all year. [Myers] was just absolutely dynamite."
-- Bobby Cox on the Phillies' Brett Myers

Other than the fact Ramirez has now surrendered a team-high 16 homers in his 16 starts this year, Pat Burrell's second-inning leadoff home run didn't cause near the disgust as the other run-producing hits the southpaw surrendered.

Ramirez issued a two-out walk to Jimmy Rollins, who promptly stole second base and scored on Jason Michaels' third-inning, two-out RBI single. The bottom of the fourth began with Chase Utley getting hit by a pitch. He later advanced to third base on a double-play groundout.

But after issuing an intentional walk to Todd Pratt, Ramirez left a fastball down the middle for Myers to deliver a single into right field that scored Utley.

"Things just didn't go well for me today," said Ramirez, whose inability to control the inside part of the plate against right-handed batters proved very costly.

The big blow against Ramirez came in the fifth inning when his 0-1 delivery to David Bell was deposited into the left-center-field seats for a three-run homer. Ramirez began that inning by walking Michaels.

"The minute you think he's getting it going in a ballgame, he makes a bad pitch," Cox said. "He's got to get it together."

While Ramirez had been at his best in his previous two starts, Myers had actually been at his worst. He entered the game having allowed 13 earned runs in his previous 7 1/3 innings. But while winning for the first time in four starts against the Braves this year, he looked like an All-Star.

Adam LaRoche's second-inning one-out single provided the Braves their only baserunner through the first eight innings. In addition, just five of the first 25 batters Myers faced managed to hit the ball into the outfield.

"Everything he had, as far as I know, was working," Cox said.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.