ATLANTA - Shane Victorino made up his mind as soon as the ball left Chase Utley's bat last night at Turner Field.
He was scoring.
"There was zero hesitation," the speedy centerfielder said after the Phillies' 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
The game was tied, 2-2, and Victorino was standing on first base with one out in the eighth inning when Utley ripped a 1-2 slider into the right-field corner. Victorino, who can run with just about anybody in baseball, never eased off his sprint until he reached home plate to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. The run helped the Phils (38-26) improve to a season-high 12 games over .500 and maintain their 31/2-game lead over the Florida Marlins in the National League East.
The Phillies have a chance to sweep the Braves with a victory in this afternoon's series finale.
"Shane might have outrun Big Brown today," Charlie Manuel said of the horse who failed to win the Triple Crown. "Big Brown had a rough trip."
"Shane was rolling," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth. "He's fast. He probably would have [beaten Big Brown]. I don't know about a mile and a half, but a short sprint he definitely gets him."
The Phillies, who have won 11 of their last 13, have started their three-city, nine-game road trip through Atlanta, Florida and St. Louis as well as expected.
The Braves entered last night with the third-best home record (25-9) in baseball behind only the Boston Red Sox (24-6) and Chicago Cubs (26-8). Atlanta hadn't lost two consecutive home games since April 22-23 against the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins. It hadn't lost twice in a three-game series since the Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from the Braves from March 31 to April 3.
But plays such as the one Utley and Victorino made in the eighth last night have been prevalent lately.
Utley fell behind, 0-2, before he pulled Jo-Jo Reyes' slider into the corner.
"My only goal was to hit the ball hard somewhere," Utley said. "At that point, it wasn't about moving the runner up."
There were other clutch moments. Carlos Ruiz and Pat Burrell homered to hand the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Kyle Kendrick kept the Phils in the game, although he lasted just 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brad Lidge combined to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
Lidge struck out the side in order in the ninth.
The Phillies finished strong, which was more than could be said for Big Brown.
"Poor guy," Victorino said. "I wanted to see him do it."