PHILADELPHIA -- Williams Perez again shut down the Phillies on Saturday afternoon, pitching 6 1/3 shutout innings in a 2-0 victory that gave the Braves two consecutive wins for the first time since April 19.
Both starters were effective. Adam Morgan lasted six innings and allowed just one two-run inning, but that was all Atlanta needed to back up Perez's performance.
Jeff Francoeur and Nick Markakis reached to start the fourth, and Ender Inciarte ripped a double past a diving Odubel Herrera in left-center. Erick Aybar followed with a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring for the Braves, who will have a chance to split a 10-game road trip and claim their second series sweep of the season with a win in Sunday's finale.
"It means a lot with all these guys have been through," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "All I heard was these guys never quit. They just keep getting after it. Things aren't going their way, but they just keep fighting every day. They've done every bit of that since I've been here."
All the Phillies mustered against Perez 10 days ago in Atlanta was a Ryan Howard home run. But Perez limited them to even less on Saturday. Three Phillies reached base, two singles and a walk spread over three innings, and none stayed on the basepaths for more than one batter.
"That kid, Perez, I gotta tip my cap to him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He used both sides of the plate very well, kept us off balance, pitched a good game."
Howard, meanwhile, struck out two more times and now has four times more strikeouts (17) than hits (four) since the calendar turned to May.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Birthday gem: Perez celebrated his 25th birthday in fine fashion, retiring each of the first eight batters he faced and allowing just two hits over 6 2/3 innings. He has retired 42 of the 47 Phillies batters faced this season. His latest mastery of Philadelphia was aided by the diving grab third baseman Chase d'Arnaud made to rob Herrera of a hit and end the third inning with a runner on base.
"I'm so happy because it was my birthday," Perez said while showing off his improved ability to speak English. "Every pitch was working." More >
Timely double: Inciarte's fourth-inning RBI double stands as one of the three hits he's recorded in six at-bats against Morgan this season. More importantly, it helped the Braves take advantage of a scoring opportunity after Francoeur and Markakis reached safely before the inning's first out was recorded. The Braves entered Saturday having hit .230 with runners in scoring position over their past 23 games.
Cold day, cold bats: The Braves and Phillies scored about as many runs as can be expected from the two worst offenses in baseball on a cold and drizzly mid-May game. All the runs (two) came from Atlanta's bats in the third inning. The Phils were shut out for only the second time in 43 games. Morgan pitched well enough to win, but Philadelphia stranded three baserunners and that was all the offense it could eke out against Perez and the Braves' bullpen. With the two-run margin of victory, Atlanta pulled even with the Phillies for least runs scored this season, each now with an MLB-worst 137.
"It's obvious that we haven't been hitting the ball the way I think we're capable of hitting," Mackanin said. "Sure, it gets to you after a while. I don't know if we can sustain the pace of scoring two or three runs a night." More >
Herrera comes up short: It took only four innings for Herrera to lay out twice in center field. However, on both attempts, he came up just short. It resulted in a harmless single in the first, when Freddie Freeman laced a ball into right-center past a diving Herrera. David Lough backed up and Morgan retired the next batter. But the damage came in the fourth, when Herrera took an awkward route to a ball off Inciarte's bat, resulting in him lying on the center field grass as Inciarte jogged into second and Francoeur raced home to score the Braves' first run.
"Everybody wants to go in there and contribute right away. I feel really good right now and really locked in." -- d'Arnaud, after notching his first three-hit game on Saturday
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For the first time in his career, Herrera has gone three consecutive games that he's started without reaching base. After going 0-for-4 on Saturday, he's hitless in his last 11 at-bats.
The Braves lost each of their first 10 challenges of the season before winning one on Friday night. They added another win on Saturday when a quick replay review showed Perez's pitch hit Maikel Franco's bat and not the third baseman's hand, as originally ruled by home-plate umpire Gerry Davis.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: Casey Kelly will take the mound when the finale of this three-games series begins on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Kelly has been promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the rotation spot opened when Aaron Blair was optioned to Gwinnett on Wednesday. He was acquired from the Padres in exchange for Christian Bethancourt in December.
Phillies:Jerad Eickhoff (1-6, 4.44) gets the start for Philadelphia in the finale of its three-game series with the Braves. Eickhoff hasn't recorded more than four strikeouts in a start since April 24, when he struck out seven but also allowed seven runs. Though he posted a 1.89 ERA in his first three starts, that number reached 6.18 over his past five.