Braves sweep on Lee's slam, stay on Phils' tail

Braves sweep on Lee's slam, stay on Phils' tail

NEW YORK -- Derrek Lee is certainly capable of hitting a few more clutch homers as the Braves attempt to battle their way into the postseason. But the veteran first baseman might not hit another that proves to be as long or timely as this one that allowed he and his teammates to head to Philadelphia with some momentum.

"To date, that's probably the biggest hit we've had," Derek Lowe said of the two-out, seventh-inning grand slam Lee delivered to give the Braves a lead they'd preserve on the way to completing a three-game sweep with Sunday afternoon's 6-3 win over the Mets.

After squandering multiple early scoring opportunities, the Braves turned their heads and celebrated when Lee deposited Manny Acosta's 3-2 fastball halfway up the second level above the right-center-field wall. With his 11th career grand slam -- first since July 2, 2009, Lee gave the Braves the power they envisioned when they acquired him from the Cubs on Aug. 18.

"It's always nice when you feel one come off the bat like that," Lee said. "It's no secret. These are big games. We need them all. It feels nice to contribute. This was a nice start to the road trip, these three games, but we've got to keep it going."

This marked just the second road series sweep of the season for the Braves. The other occurred when they exited Philadelphia on May 9 five games below .500 and then proceeded to win during each of the next three games they played in Milwaukee. That series against the Brewers marked the start of a 19-4 run that helped the Braves overtake the Phillies and claim the lead in the National League East race on Memorial Day.

Now sparked by the success of another road series sweep, the Braves will enter Monday's series opener against the Phillies facing a three-game deficit and riding a sense of momentum that wasn't present when they won just six of their first 15 games this month.

"We couldn't have asked for anything more when we came in here," Lowe said. "We knew that we needed to play better than we did [last week against the Nationals]. In all phases, we did exactly what we needed to do and set ourselves up for a really fun next three days."

Lee provided the crushing blow with what was just his second homer since being traded. But it was Lowe, who gave the Braves equal encouragement with what was his third consecutive strong start. The only damage incurred by the veteran sinkerballer in his six-inning effort came courtesy of David Wright's opposite-field, two-run homer in the first inning.

Lowe, who has allowed just three runs in his past 20 innings, retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced and recorded each of those 16 outs via ground balls or his two strikeouts, both of which were registered in the fourth inning.

"That wasn't an ideal start, but there was such a long way to go," Lowe said in reference to the first-inning homer. "We just found a way to get a couple of runs off [R.A.] Dickey. We did what we've done all year, we scored runs off the other team's bullpen. That's been kind of our trademark this year."

On the way to allowing four earned runs and 10 hits in six innings, Dickey managed to escape a couple damaging situations. Three of the five batters he faced in the fifth inning reach safely. But Rick Ankiel subdued this threat when he attempted to stretch a leadoff double into a triple and then essentially got stuck in the dirt as he attempted to slide head-first into third base.

Alex Gonzalez once again dazzled with his glove and delivered a pair of two-out RBI singles that accounted for the only damage incurred by Dickey. The veteran shortstop's game-tying single in the sixth was clutch after the leadoff double delivered by Lee, who has hit .350 with two homers and nine RBIs in his past 13 games.

"This is the best part of baseball," Lee said. "You're not able to get in this situation every year, where the games really mean a lot. This is the fun part. You know when you do something, it's really meaningful. This is the good part of the year."

After Dickey allowed consecutive singles to begin the decisive seventh, Jason Heyward grounded out to the mound and Martin Prado drew an intentional walk that was followed by Brian McCann's weak lineout. This prompted the entry of Acosta, who complained to the Braves about how he was being used in March and was subsequently placed on waivers.

Acosta fell behind with a 3-0 count and then worked it full before Lee drilled his titanic grand slam -- the Major League-high 12th grand slam allowed by a Mets pitcher this year -- and forced Braves fans to at least temporarily forget about the struggles that he experienced during his first couple of weeks with their club.

"What he did today was he put us on his back," McCann said. "Tie ballgame, two outs, 3-2 count and he hits one of the furthest balls I've seen hit this year. We're all so glad to have him."

Giving Billy Wagner a chance to rest heading into the Phillies series, Craig Kimbrel notched three strikeouts in a scoreless ninth that gave him his first career save.

"I think we all kind of understood the importance and urgency of this road trip," Lee said. "With that being said, this was just three games. So we've got to keep the same focus and intensity for the next six games."

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