IT IS PROBABLY overstating things to say Ben Revere was playing for his job yesterday afternoon. He went through something like this last year and eventually cemented himself as the Phillies' everyday centerfielder.
Still, you don't want to give the guy behind you too many chances, and, over the previous week, Tony Gwynn Jr. had not just been getting those chances, but making the most of them, as well.
And so here was Revere, who had entered the day riding an 0-for-12 skid, stepping to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning, the go-ahead run on second base.
"When he threw me the first one, I knew," Revere said of the curveball he took from Braves lefty Alex Wood for strike one. "I'm not getting a fastball."
When Wood followed with the same pitch, Revere wheeled into action, serving the ball into an open patch of grass in centerfield, sending Domonic Brown scrambling around third base and sliding into home with the only run in the Phillies' 1-0 victory. The hit capped off a 3-for-4 day for Revere, raising his average to .288 and his on-base percentage to .315.
Heading into the week, the 25-year-old had seen some of his playing time go to Gwynn, a more polished defender who has been swinging a hot bat since spring training. Gwynn, who is hitting .318 with a .423 on-base percentage in 27 plate appearances, started all three games of the Phillies' weekend sweep of the Marlins, then started the first game of the series against the Braves.
"We're kind of the same player," Revere said. "He's like my older brother. If I do something wrong, he's right there telling me how to correct myself. I'm the same way with him. If I see something, I tell him. He's definitely a great motivator for me.
"I just learn from him, since he's been in the game for a while. I'm still learning. I kind of just watched him those few days to help me out and improve my game, and he watches me to improve his. We kind of feed off each other."
When Revere drove in Brown to break the scoreless tie, it was the first run the Phillies had scored in 17 innings, the Braves having blanked them the night before to take their second straight game in the series. The Phillies entered the day trailing the NL East-leading Braves by four games. Yesterday dropped Atlanta to 10-5, while lifting the Phillies to 7-8.
The Braves squandered a golden scoring opportunity in the top of the eighth when Wood failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt that would have put the go-ahead run on third with one out. This proved pivotal, as Jason Heyward's lineout to medium-depth rightfield would have given Gerald Laird a chance to tag up and score from third.
The Phillies ran into some bad luck in the first inning, as a well-struck liner off the bat of Jimmy Rollins found itself in the glove of Freddie Freeman, who stepped on first base to double off Revere for the first two outs of the inning (Chase Utley followed with a single before Marlon Byrd struck out). In fact, three of the Phillies' first four baserunners, all of whom reached via single, were eliminated on a doubleplay ground ball by the next batter. In the sixth, Revere was picked off and caught trying to steal second.
The Phillies had plenty of margin for error with A.J. Burnett on the mound. The veteran righthander showed no ill effects from his hernia, pitching seven scoreless innings, while allowing five baserunners and striking out five.
"Everybody stepped up," manager Ryne Sandberg said, "A.J. in a big way."
Jonathan Papelbon protected the slim lead in impressive fashion, mowing through the heart of the Braves' order, getting Freeman to fly out and then striking out Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to record his fourth save in five opportunities. Antonio Bastardo took care of the eighth inning.
After the game, the Phillies boarded a charter flight bound for Denver, where they open a 10-game western swing against the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
At the very least, Revere said, "the plane ride is going to be a lot more fun."