Phillies demolish Braves, carry game’s best record into the break

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The Philadelphia offense came up with 14 largely unnecessary runs in support of All-Star Cole Hamels to rout the Braves on Sunday and finish the first half 57-34.

Hamels gave up just one run and three hits in improving to 11-4 this season.  He has a 2.32 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP, but he was officially scratched from the All-Star Game roster because he pitched today.

Derek Lowe surrendered four runs over six innings for Atlanta.  The Phillies did most of their damage against the underbelly of the Braves bullpen, roughing up Cory Gearrin and Scott Proctor for 10 runs in two innings.

Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer and drove in six runs for Philadelphia.  John Mayberry Jr. doubled three times and knocked in four runs.  Even Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez had four hits, raising his average from .192 to .229.

The Phillies won two out of three in the series to open up a 3 1/2-game lead on the Braves in the NL East.  The Braves, though, are five games ahead in the wild card as play shuts down for the next three days.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.