ATLANTA — Jason Heyward had a career-high five hits, including a leadoff home run, and the Braves rode a five-run first inning to post a 7-1 win over the Phillies on Thursday night.
The win pulled the Braves even with the idle Cardinals at 94-65 for the best record in the National League with three games to play. The Braves won the season-series against the Cardinals and would win the NL’s No. 1 seed if the teams finish tied.
Heyward had three doubles and a single to go along with his home run, giving him a career high four extra-base hits. Braves outfielder Evan Gattis had two hits and three RBIs.
After scoring just three runs in a three-game series loss to the Brewers, the Braves entered Thursday averaging 3.3 runs per game in September. They surpassed that in just six batters against the Phillies when Chris Johnson doubled home Gattis to give the Braves a 4-0 lead in the first.
Braves rookie David Hale (1-0) picked up his first win in his second career start, going six innings while giving up one run and striking out five.
The right-hander allowed six base runners in the first three innings, but settled down after that and cruised to the win. In two starts since getting called up from Triple-A, Hale has given up one run in 11 innings.
Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd (2-7) had been struggling, surrendering 17 runs in 13 innings in his previous three September starts, and the right-hander did not see a turnaround against the Braves. Cloyd gave up seven runs on eight hits and did not retire any of the first four batters in the second inning before being pulled.
The decisive first began with Heyward’s home run on Cloyd’s first pitch of the night. Elliot Johnson followed with a single, and Freddie Freeman doubled him home. Gattis then hit an RBI single, and scored on Chris Johnson’s double. Jordan Schafer brought in the final run of the first inning with an RBI single.
Gattis ended Cloyd’s night with a two-run double in the second that scored Heyward and Elliot Johnson.
Jimmy Rollins went 3 for 4 for the Phillies, who have lost seven of eight.
NOTES: Braves catcher Brian McCann left the game in the second inning with a right adductor strain. He is listed as day to day. . Injured Braves starter Brandon Beachy had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow on Thursday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Beachy should be ready to return by the first couple of weeks of spring training. . Gonzalez is still undecided on his fourth starter for the upcoming NLDS. He is choosing between Freddy Garcia and Paul Malhom. Gonzalez thought both pitchers pitched well this week and said it will be a tough decision. . Injured Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was at Turner Field, re-joining the team from Clearwater, Fla., where he had been rehabbing his left knee. Howard said it was important to him to finish the season with his teammates. “I just wanted to watch and cheer these guys on the rest of the way and hopefully try to end things on a good note and head into 2014 on a high.” . The Braves have matched their 94 wins from 2012, when they earned a wild card spot.