ATLANTA -- The stage is set for the Atlanta Braves to honor Bobby Cox.
Jimmy Rollins and the Philadelphia Phillies took the first bow.Rollins' grand slam capped a five-run sixth inning and Philadelphia beat Atlanta 11-5 on Friday night to keep Cox and the Braves from moving closer to a wild-card berth.
Granderson: Judge Cox on Lack of Titles?
Bobby Cox leaves the game as an all-time great but also far from the greatest of all time conversation. That's the parting gift for being in charge of a team widely considered to be underachievers, writes LZ Granderson. Story
The Phillies showed why they have the best record in the majors and are set to make a run at a third straight World Series appearance. With Rollins back in the lineup, the NL East champions had 13 hits and looked ready for the postseason."Things are working out pretty well," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It never hurts to win."Atlanta's edge in the wild-card race was trimmed to one game over San Diego when the Padres beat NL West-leading San Francisco 6-4.The loss left the Braves feeling the pressure."It's do or die, really," Eric Hinske said.Rollins made his third start at shortstop since returning from a tight right hamstring."I felt pretty good," he said. "My leg, I can push it if I have to. Defensively, I feel good."In a couple of days, the real fun starts," he added. "We want to go into the postseason with confidence."Ryan Howard had two hits, including a two-run single in a four-run eighth. Carlos Ruiz had three hits.Rollins said Manuel won't let the Phillies relax in their final regular-season series."You play baseball to win," Rollins said. "Charlie's not going to let anybody be complacent."Manuel said he "definitely might" stick with his regular lineup the next two games."That does not mean they will play the whole game," he said.Atlanta has a tribute planned for Cox on Saturday. The Braves are trying to send their longtime manager into retirement with one final postseason appearance.Some of Cox's former players, including Andres Galarraga and Gerald Perry, arrived on Friday. A huge No. 6 -- Cox's uniform number -- was cut in the center-field grass.Cox said before the game he could fully enjoy the tribute if the wild-card spot was secure. He won't have that luxury."We need to win tomorrow," Cox said.Trailing 11-2, the Braves tried to rally against left-hander Mike Zagurski in the ninth. Derrek Lee, who had three hits and five RBIs, hit a three-run double to knock Zagurski out of the game.Right-hander David Herndon walked Melky Cabrera before Matt Diaz grounded out to end it.Kyle Kendrick (11-10) gave up five hits and two runs in five innings."We're division rivals," Kendrick said. "We want to beat these guys and make it tough on them."Braves rookie Brandon Beachy (0-2) allowed seven hits and four runs, two earned, in 5 2/3 innings in his first home start.The Braves, who lost three straight games at Philadelphia from Sept. 20-22, took the lopsided loss before a sellout crowd of 51,139.Atlanta relievers Peter Moylan and Mike Minor issued bases-loaded walks in the sixth and eighth, respectively. The Braves were also hurt by third baseman Brooks Conrad's throwing error with two outs in the sixth.Conrad made a wild throw to second base after fielding a grounder by Ruiz, leaving the bases loaded. Cox said Conrad's throw should have been to first base, and second baseman Omar Infante was not in position to take the throw."Right now I feel terrible," Conrad said. "I didn't make the play. I should have gone to first."Moylan's walk to pinch-hitter Domonic Brown forced in a run before Rollins hit his third career slam and first of the season.Raul Ibanez and Ruiz had run-scoring singles off Beachy in the fourth.Cristhian Martinez gave up three hits and four runs in the eighth. Ben Francisco had a run-scoring single and Chase Utley's bases-loaded walk forced in a run before Howard's two-run single.Manuel said Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt will start the first two games of the division series. The manager did not announce his Game 3 starter. The likely choice is Cole Hamels, who will start the final regular-season game against the Braves on Sunday.
Braves president John Schuerholz celebrated his 70th birthday. ... Cox said right-hander Jair Jurrjens, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 14 because of an injured right knee, "threw good" in the bullpen but "felt it every now and then." ... Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino is expected to return Saturday after his wife gave birth to a boy on Thursday. ... Third baseman Placido Polanco returned to the team after having a cortisone shot in his left elbow Wednesday in Philadelphia.