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SD@ATL: Phillips' homer puts Padres on top in 10th

ATLANTA -- Kyle Phillips was standing shirtless in front of his locker Monday morning, getting ready to pull on his uniform, when Padres trainer Todd Hutcheson strolled by and cracked a joke at the expense of the San Diego catcher.

"He said, 'You look more like a car salesman than a baseball player,'" said Phillips, who actually is a car salesman in the winter, selling Cadillacs in his native San Diego.

A few hours later, the joke was on Hutcheson and the Braves as Phillips picked a fine time to hit his first Major League homer as the Padres topped the Braves, 3-2, in front of a crowd of 25,832 on a humid Memorial Day afternoon at Turner Field.

The left-handed-hitting Phillips jumped on a 0-1 slider from Braves lefty reliever George Sherrill to begin the 10th inning, sending it into the right-field seats, a home run that was measured at 355 feet.

Not that Phillips took any of it for granted.

"I hit it and I said, 'I got it good, but I don't know,'" Phillips said. "I was running to first base thinking, 'Please, please, please.'"

The home run, coupled with a strong performance from the bullpen, gave the Padres (23-31) their third consecutive victory, matching their previous best streak from earlier this month when they defeated Colorado twice and then Arizona on May 14-16.

The victory over the Braves (30-25) ensured the Padres of at least a .500 road trip with two games left to play.

Ryan Ludwick continued his big May, driving in two more runs, giving him 22 during the month, and relievers Ernesto Frieri, Mike Adams, Chad Qualls (3-2) and Heath Bell combined for four shutout innings after pitcher Aaron Harang expended a lot of energy and pitches, in six innings.

Energy spent on the mound and, oddly enough, the bases.

In the third, Harang singled and moved to second base as Eric Patterson singled. Alberto Gonzalez followed by lifting a fly ball to center that Harang initially felt was hit harder than it was. He drifted and drifted away from second base, thinking the ball might fall.

It didn't.

Atlanta center fielder Jordan Schafer caught the ball and quickly fired it back toward second base after seeing Harang shuffling his feet, looking indecisive roughly halfway between second and third base. But the throw was wide and Harang made it back to the base -- barely.

That play loomed big when Ludwick hit a soft liner into right field, giving Harang just enough time to score from second with a run that certainly proved important later.

Harang's teammates were waiting for him, with some good-natured ribbing moreso than high-fives for his hit or scoring a critical run.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be hearing about it," Harang said. "I've already heard enough from the guys."

The ribbing wasn't just limited to his teammates, though, as Braves second baseman Dan Uggla even questioned his motives.

"He said, 'Dude, you're wasting energy,'" Harang said.

Harang certainly spent a lot of time on the mound early in the game, burning through 69 pitches in the first three innings alone. Realizing that he couldn't keep going at that pace, Harang changed his approach.

"I was trying to pitch to contact at that point," Harang said.

It worked, as did Harang's ability to command his breaking ball following the first three innings. The results were stunning: 69 pitches in the first three innings, 33 over the final three. All told, he allowed two runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

"It was one of those days where I had to work early," Harang said.

That wasn't the case for Phillips, who kept himself in the shade of the visiting dugout for most of the game until he was pressed into duty in the ninth at catcher after San Diego pinch-hit for starting catcher Rob Johnson.

Phillips, 27, who has spent most of his career in the Minor Leagues, made the most of his one at-bat against Sherrill (1-1).

"That was a big knock against the lefty," Padres manager Bud Black said. "What we saw today was indicative of what he can do at the plate.

"He's worked hard every day to prove a point and today he put an exclamation on it."

After the game, Phillips couldn't resist getting a dig in with Hutchseon.

"I came in and said, 'Not bad for a car salesman,'" said Phillips, who has worked each of the past six winters selling Cadillacs to supplement his income as a Minor League player. He has even sold cars to Harang in the past.

The Padres didn't have much luck against Braves pitcher Tim Hudson. He allowed five hits in six innings, striking out seven while walking none. He allowed two runs, though one was unearned.

That unearned run came in the first, when Patterson opened the game with a single, stole second and then advanced to third base when Hudson threw a pickoff attempt into center field. Finally, Patterson scored on a Ludwick ground ball. Comments