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Oswalt, Ibanez lift Phils to 10th straight win

Oswalt, Ibanez lift Phils to 10th straight win

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes offered Jayson Werth a simple reminder with two outs in the eighth inning Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

Be ready to score on a double.

Werth later joked he never needed the reminder. He said even before Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez ripped a double into the left-field corner, he planned to score. So when the ball left Ibanez's bat, Werth raced home. He whipped around the bases and said the moment he saw the ball bounce off the wall, he knew he would score the game's only run in a 1-0 victory over the Braves.

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The Phillies, who have won 10 in a row, swept the Braves in a critical three-game series to take a six-game lead in the National League East with just nine games to play.

The magic number to clinch their fourth consecutive NL East title is four.

"I don't think we necessarily had anything to prove, because we already believed we were the best team, but at the same time, it's nice to get out there and do it," closer Brad Lidge said.

The Phils could clinch the division as early as this weekend.

The earlier the better.

"It's important," Werth said. "We have some guys who need to play. It would be nice to get Jimmy [Rollins] back and get him in there and get him going a bit. But at the same time, there are some other things that we're playing for. They're important, too."

The Phillies would like to finish with the best record in baseball. They improved to 92-61, which is tied with the Yankees and Twins for the most wins in the Majors. The top NL team gets to choose between an eight-day or seven-day NL Division Series. An eight-day series would allow the Phils to pitch only Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, if they wanted.

Philadelphia shuffled its rotation last week to have Hamels, Halladay and Oswalt face Atlanta, and it worked out brilliantly. Hamels allowed just one run in eight innings in Monday's 3-1 victory over the Braves. Halladay allowed three runs in seven innings in Tuesday's 5-3 win.

Oswalt might have pitched the best of the three. He retired the first 11 batters he faced Wednesday until Martin Prado hit a two-out double to right-center field in the fourth. Oswalt retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced, allowing just one hit and one walk and striking out eight in seven innings. The outing was the 27th game this season in which a team registered one hit or less, a new Major League record.

"We knew what we were getting into coming in here," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "We knew who they were pitching. We've all faced them before and they've all got great stuff. They executed every pitch, and when they got themselves in trouble, they got out of it. That's what No. 1s do, and all three of those guys are No. 1s."

Oswalt would not pick up his eighth win in 11 starts with the Phils, but he is 7-1 with a 1.76 ERA (15 earned runs in 76 2/3 innings).

He has been remarkable.

"It's fun for me after not being in contention," said Oswalt, who joined the Phillies on July 29 in a trade with the Astros. "This is what baseball is."

Ryan Madson pitched a perfect top of the eighth to keep the game scoreless entering the bottom of the inning.

Werth worked a two-out walk and Ibanez hit a 2-0 fastball against Braves left-hander Jonny Venters into the corner. Ibanez hit a big two-out double into the right-fielder corner against Braves left-hander Mike Dunn in Tuesday's victory. He is hitting .421 (24-for-57) with seven doubles, one triple, three home runs and 14 RBIs in his past 15 games, and .474 (9 for 19) against left-handers in his past 11 games against them.

Lidge looked good again in the ninth to pick up his 26th save.

Philadelphia left the ballpark Wednesday feeling good about its situation. The series had been hyped, and the Phils essentially ended Atlanta's aspirations to send Bobby Cox into the sunset with one last division title.

The Phillies were too good.

They think they're the best, and they would like to finish like it.

"We've been talking about winning 100 games and being the best team in baseball for years now," Werth said. "We pretty much have the same guys in here. We're a good team. We want to be recognized. We feel like everybody out there over the past few years. We feel like we're right there, if not better."

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

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