PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies hadn't scored a run since Monday. And they hadn't gotten a runner past first base against Braves starter Alex Wood.
And now, in the eighth inning Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies starter A.J. Burnett was gone after pitching seven dominant shutout innings. And Gerald Laird led off the top of the frame with a double off reliever Antonio Bastardo.
Needing a win to avoid being swept, facing the beginning of a challenging Colorado-Los Angeles-Arizona road trip, the Phillies rose to the occasion. Bastardo pitched out of trouble. Ben Revere's two-out single scored Domonic Brown from second in the bottom of the inning. Jonathan Papelbon earned his fourth straight save. And a happy Phillies team boarded its charter to Denver after a 1-0 win over the first-place Braves.
The win came only hours after the Phillies wasted a gem by starter Cliff Lee in a 1-0 loss Wednesday night.
"That was a big one today for us, to get the last one before going on the road trip," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was big to end the [4-5] homestand on a good note. It was a little up and down, but to end on a good note is a big momentum gain for us."
In the long run, the most promising development was Burnett's performance. The Phillies couldn't be sure what to expect from him in his first outing since having to leave his previous start with what was later diagnosed as an inguinal hernia. Not only that, he had walked six batters in each of his previous two times out.
But he shortened his stride by about six inches during his side session between starts, partly to take pressure off the hernia and partly to keep his arm from lagging at the end of his delivery. And it seemed to work. Burnett allowed just three singles while walking two and striking out five.
"It's going to be a blessing in disguise, I think," Burnett said. "It's going to be there, but it helps me stay within myself. A couple pitches I tried to do too much -- you could tell it wasn't right. But every time I was simple and just nice and easy, I was able to make effective pitches.
"I've pitched with worse. It's just one of those things I've got to stay on top of, and really focus on my delivery, and that was the case today. It's hit and miss. I just try not to think about it, try to block it out. At this point I think I know what I'm doing with it. First time was a little scary, but now I know. It's different, but I think the easier and calmer I can be out here, the better I'll be."
Burnett didn't get a decision, but the Phillies got the win because they were able to scratch out a run in the bottom of the eighth.
It started with Brown's opposite-field single to left.
"He's taking what the pitchers are giving him and he's not trying to do too much," Sandberg said. "He's not forcing anything to the pull side. You want a baserunner right there and get him into scoring position and take our shots at it. He was a leadoff hitter right there, so it was a good approach.
"Some of the defenses are playing a slight shift on him, so he can take pitches middle away or outside and drive them that way through the shortstop hole and then get hits. That's what we're looking for right there, and he's got a real smart approach right now and taking what the pitcher's giving him."
Said Brown: "When you have a tough lefty throwing right there, I'm just trying to hit the ball to the middle of the field. I'm looking for a pitch up to drive, and it actually was a pitch I thought I could've hit out of the ballpark. It was a fastball middle, middle-in. I was just sitting on it, trying to stay on it and luckily it got through."
Wil Nieves bunted Brown to second. After Jayson Nix struck out, Sandberg had a decision to make. He had one right-handed hitter on the bench, but that was Carlos Ruiz, his only other catcher. He had switch-hitter Freddy Galvis. He also had three lefty swingers, and he decided to go with Ryan Howard, even though the matchup didn't seem favorable.
"Howard's [normally] our cleanup hitter. Right-handed, left-handed pitchers, and he's an RBI guy. That's what he does," Sandberg said.
Howard worked a walk, though, and that set the table for Revere's game-winner.
"He got that walk, and I had a feeling he was going to throw me the same way he threw Howard, which was all breaking balls," Revere said. "That's the way a good team goes. Each and every day you know it's going to be a different guy."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.