Monday, July 21, 2014
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La Stella, Wood lead Braves over Phillies

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[July 21, 2014]  ATLANTA -- Tommy La Stella's career is off to an impressive start, especially with the bases full.

The rookie second baseman had a three-run double in the third inning as the Atlanta Braves gave Alex Wood an early cushion in a rain-interrupted 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday at Turner Field.

Wood (7-7) retired the last 13 batters he faced and the only run against him was a home run by John Mayberry Jr. in the second inning. The left-hander allowed three hits, walked none and struck out eight.

La Stella, batting .297 after his first 46 games, is 6-for-7 with three doubles, a triple and 13 RBIs when he comes up with the bases loaded.

"I don't really know what that's about, but I'll take it," La Stella said.

"Hopefully he'll keep doing that the rest of the year," Wood said. "It's pretty incredible."

This time the left-handed hitter connected on a 3-2 pitch with two outs after Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (4-10) had hit two batters and walked two more, forcing in a run.

"You kind of got to keep your adrenalin in check," La Stella said. "Bases loaded is a big situation and the more you can keep calm and keep your emotions in check the better success you'll have."

La Stella added another double later in a 2-for-4 outing and is batting .353 (18-for-51) in his past 13 games.

"Tommy keeps finding that gap (in the outfield) and he usually does it with men on base," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

The victory, which was interrupted for one hour and 39 minutes in the sixth inning, gave the Braves (54-44) the weekend series and improved their record to 16-7 since June 24. They are in a virtual tie for first place with Washington in the National League East.

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson hit a two-run homer and left fielder Justin Upton was 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored. He was also hit by a pitch, though, and left the game late as a precaution when his arm stiffened.

Kendrick, who came in with an 11.37 ERA for the first inning, retired the Braves in order this time only to quickly falter after the Phillies (43-55) had given him an early lead.

Upton doubled to open the second inning and Johnson hit a 1-0 sinker over the fence in center field for his seventh homer of the season.

Then the Braves scored four times in the third as Kendrick completely lost his control. He hit first baseman Freddie Freeman and Upton in succession to load the bases and walked right fielder Jason Heyward to force in a run.

Not wanting to force in another, Kendrick left a pitch in La Stella's hot zone and result was a drive to right-center field that cleared the bases.

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"It's been a tough year for me," Kendrick said. "I don't know why. It's just been a bad year. Guys have bad years. So far, that's how it's been."

The Phillies had gone up briefly in the top of the second on the sixth homer of the season by Mayberry, who was filling in for Ryan Howard at first base. The homer came on a 1-0 fastball, the drive just clearing the fence near the left field foul pole. "That was a bad miss by me," said Wood, who quickly bounced back.

"Woody was good," Gonzalez said. "If it wasn't for the rain delay, he would have gone out for the seventh."

Mario Hollands replaced Kendrick after the delay and walked four straight batters before giving up an RBI hit to Freeman that made it 8-1.

"It was all about free passes," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We basically gave them nine free passes -- seven of them walks, two hit batsmen. I believe five or six of them scored."

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd, who was 2-for-4, hit his 19th homer of the season leading off the ninth inning against reliever David Carpenter.

NOTES: C Evan Gattis (bulging disk in back) played his fourth rehab game for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday and is slated to be activated from the disabled list on Monday, when the Braves open a four-game home series with Miami. Gattis has been sidelined since June 27. ... LHP Cliff Lee will come off the DL and start against San Francisco on Monday as the Phillies begin a week-long homestand with the first of four games against the Giants. Lee, sidelined since May 18 because of a strained elbow, is 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts. ... The Braves play four games against the Marlins and then conclude the 11-game homestand with four against San Diego.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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