The Braves thump the Phillies to take over first place

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Tommy Hanson pitches.jpgI said at the beginning of the season that the NL East was going to be a tight one this year. I also said that the Braves would win it. Neither of those calls looked particularly prescient for the first several weeks of the season as the Phillies started off as one of the hottest teams in baseball — scoring runs in bunches — and the Braves treated April like it was extended spring training.

But it’s a brand new season now, as the Braves took advantage of a struggling Phillies team in the past week or so and beat them soundly today — 9-3 — in order to take over first place.

Most of the damage was done against Joe Blanton, who obviously didn’t have it at the start of the day’s game. Many balls were hit hard, including a homer by Chipper Jones. Blanton had some help, though, by some indifferent Phillies defense that allowed Braves’ runners to take extra bases and a Phillies offense that continued to squander opportunities early.

Braves’ starter Tommy Hanson wasn’t too sharp himself in the early going, but he settled down in the third inning and cruised through the remainder of his day, finishing with only one run in 6.2 IP, and that run was an inherited thing allowed by reliever Peter Moylan.  The Phillies went on to score two more off the Braves’ bullpen in the seventh, but all of that headway was lost when Troy Glaus hit a three-run homer off Chad Durbin in the bottom half of the inning.

The Braves won 20 games in May. They’re obviously on fire and will fall back to Earth soon. The Phillies have looked awful lately. They’re obviously a supremely talented team and they will bounce back.

But for now the Braves are in first place and, at the very least, I’m feeling very confident about my prediction of a close race.

Video: Ramon Torres hits little league home run in first at-bat of season

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
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The Royals recalled infielder Ramon Torres from Triple-A Omaha on Saturday. He didn’t get into a game until starting Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, batting ninth.

In the top of the second inning, facing Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Torres laced a single up the middle. Center fielder Delino DeShields charged in on it, attempting to keep Ryan Goins at second base, but the ball went right past his glove, through his legs, and nearly trickled all the way to the warning track. Goins scored easily and Torres was waved home, too. He managed to narrowly beat the throw, touching home plate with his left hand on a head-first slide.

The play was officially scored a single and a three-base error. Torres wasn’t credited with an RBI on the play. But at least the Royals got two runs out of it.