McCann's late homer lifts Braves to sweep

McCann's late homer lifts Braves to sweep

McCann's late homer lifts Braves to sweep
PHILADELPHIA -- Brian McCann has finally found his stroke after his first-half struggles from the plate caused him to scrap everything and go back to the basics. It's worked, and the catcher's suddenly hot bat helped the Braves close out the first half on a positive note.

McCann crushed a seventh-inning go-ahead solo home run off the ivy-covered batter's eye in dead center field at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday to propel the Braves to a 4-3 win and a series sweep of the Phillies. McCann's fourth homer in as many days and his fifth in five games against the struggling Phillies helped the Braves sweep here for the first time since April 2007.

"I'm in a place I feel like now that I haven't been in three years," McCann said. "I'm excited for the second half. I'm excited for everything that comes after this. I've just got to keep pushing."

The three-game sweep, backed by great pitching and McCann's bat, boosted the Braves (46-39) into second-place in the National League East and just four games behind the first-place Nationals. The Mets lost to the Cubs on Sunday to fall to third place, a half-game behind the Braves. Atlanta's win in Sunday's matinee also sent the five-time defending division champion Phillies (37-50) to their 10th loss in their last 11 games.

The Braves hope they can continue their hot first-half finish into the second half of the season, which starts Friday against the Mets at Turner Field.

"I'm really pleased with the way we finished, especially these last five, six days when our pitching gets consistent," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We're a good baseball team. We're good enough offensively. And we're gonna score enough runs. We're good enough defensively. When we can rattle off or get deep in ballgames with our pitching staff, we become an even much better baseball team."

The win didn't come completely without a cost, though, as shortstop Andrelton Simmons fractured his pinky finger on his right hand on a headfirst dive. It's unknown how long Simmons will be sidelined, and he will be re-evaluated on Monday.

"Stuff happens," said Simmons, who is hitting .296 with three homers and 15 RBIs and has been strong in the field. "Gotta live with the consequences. It's tough. [I] can't do anything about it."

Jair Jurrjens' start on Sunday capped off a turn through the rotation in which the Braves got five good outings from their starters. Jurrjens (3-2, 4.97 ERA) allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings. The biggest blemish to his line came in the second inning, when center fielder Jason Pridie hit a two-run homer. Pridie started in place of center fielder Shane Victorino, who was a late scratch from the Phillies' lineup after manager Charlie Manuel decided to give him the day off to clear his head.

All-Star Dan Uggla tied the game with a two-run homer of his own in the fourth. It was Uggla's 12th long ball of the year but first since June 9, and it snapped an 0-for-20 skid at the plate.

"I felt like I hadn't had a good swing on a ball since [the series at Miami from June 5-7]," Uggla said. "To actually connect and get one over the fence, it was a nice little weight off the shoulders. [It had] been a while."

The Braves trailed briefly after Pridie doubled home his third run in the fourth, but an RBI single from McCann knotted the game at 3 through five innings. Then came McCann's solo shot in the seventh, which made the difference. It came with two outs on a 1-2 fastball from left-handed reliever Raul Valdes, who was tagged with the loss.

McCann, who has 13 RBIs against Philadelphia this season, is only the second player in Major League history to homer in his first five games against the Phillies in a given season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was Houston's Glenn Davis in 1989.

"He's a big bat," Gonzalez said. "You see him getting going again."

The Braves' pitching retired their final 10 batters faced. Kris Medlen threw a perfect eighth and All-Star Craig Kimbrel needed just seven pitches to pick up his NL-leading 25th save.

"[The sweep] gives us a positive mindset to go in the break," Jurrjens said. "Go rest for a little bit and prepare ourselves for the second half and keep playing good baseball."

Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.