Braves close in on home-field advantage in NL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Horacio Ramirez is making a strong case to
start a postseason game.

Ramirez pitched six sharp innings, and the Atlanta Braves moved
closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs
Friday with a 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the
final night game at Veterans Stadium.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox already named Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton
and Greg Maddux his starters for the first three games of next
week's first-round playoff series against a team from the NL

Depending on the outcome of the first three games, Ramirez would
start Game 4 or Ortiz would take the mound on three days' rest. The
way Ramirez is pitching, Cox would feel comfortable giving the
rookie left-hander the start.

"He looked terrific," Cox said. "He moved the ball
brilliantly. He's a lot like Tommy Glavine when he first came up."

The Braves entered the night with a one-game lead over San
Francisco for the best record in the NL. The Giants played Los
Angeles later Friday night.

The Phillies, atop the NL wild-card standings a week ago, lost
their sixth straight game. They were eliminated from the playoff
race Thursday night after being swept by Florida.

Ramirez (12-4) allowed five hits and no walks. Jaret Wright
pitched a perfect seventh, Ray King and Will Cunnane worked the
eighth and Kent Mercker got the final three outs to complete the

Ramirez improved to 4-0 in his last 10 starts. He has lost just
twice in his last 26 starts since April 16.

"It's out of my hands, out of my control," he said of starting
Game 4. "Whatever role they want for me, I'll do."

A sellout crowd of 58,096 came out to the Vet, which is closing
after 33 seasons. The Phillies are moving across the street into
Citizens Bank Park next season.

The Phillies had hoped this weekend series would have playoff
implications, but a disappointing finish ruined their chances.

"It was an empty feeling," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.
"No more scoreboard watching. We don't like that feeling."

The victory was the 100th of the season for Atlanta, making Cox
the second manager ever with six 100-win seasons, joining Joe

"This manager doesn't do much," Cox said, downplaying the

Marcus Giles gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead on an opposite-field homer
in the sixth. After Vicente Padilla (14-12) retired the first two
batters in the inning, Giles hit his first pitch over the
right-field wall for his 21st homer.

Javy Lopez made it 3-0 with a two-run double in the seventh, and
a double-play grounder by Vinny Castilla drove in the fourth run.
Castilla added an RBI double and Rafael Furcal had an RBI single
off Mike Williams in the ninth.

"We're just trying to play good ball because we don't want to
get to Tuesday and have to turn on the switch," Giles said.

Padilla gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings. He
failed in his second bid to win his 15th game for the second year
in a row.

After Williams allowed two runs in the ninth, some fans began
chanting, "We want Mesa!" Jose Mesa, who lost his job as the
team's closer this season, has been vilified by the fans for his
poor performance. He's 5-7 with a 6.52 ERA and 24 saves in 28

Game notes
Cox tied Casey Stengel for ninth on the career list with
1,905 victories. ... The games on Saturday and Sunday are also sold
out. ... Hall of Fame left-hander Steve Carlton changed the number
on the right-field wall that signals the number of games remaining
at the Vet. ... A fireworks display was held after the game. ...
Lopez's 108 RBI are a career high. ... Atlanta has seven shutouts
this season. The Phillies were shut out for the 10th time.