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Braves top Giants, 4-1

Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

SAN FRANCISCO -- Utilityman Charlie Culberson, who wasn't even set to play Tuesday, corralled a ball through the light San Francisco breeze toward the renowned lit-up Coca-Cola bottle in left field.

The home run came just moments after Juan Soto's gave Washington a 7-6 lead over Philadelphia, quite possibly ripping the remaining soul out of the fading Phillies.

A couple hours later, Mike Foltynewicz and his Braves completed their 4-1 thrashing of the Giants. Foltynewicz notched one of the best starts of his career, going the full nine and allowing just one run with two down in the ninth.

On the East coast, the Phillies were swept in their doubleheader. In the span of a day, the Braves assembled a 61/2-game lead in the National League East and shrunk their magic number to 12.

"Just focus on tomorrow," manager Brian Snitker said. "I've been telling the guys that for the entire season. The only thing we can control is tomorrow. Just come out and play another good ballgame and try to finish it off."

With only 17 games left, the leader's opponent essentially shifts to the calendar. The Braves and Phillies square off seven of the last 10 games, but the Braves are building a cushion that'd demand near perfect play from their northern rivals.

Perfect play wouldn't describe the present Phillies, who're 0-10-1 in their last 11 series, and an uninspiring 11-22 since sitting in first place Aug. 5. Their defense remains historically grim, their bullpen is taxed and their offense simply doesn't have enough to overcome it.

The Braves might have the luxury of a mediocre finish and still winning the East. That said, they're not coasting into the postseason, and the NL home-field advantage is within their reach. Plus if the Phillies keep it close enough and fare well in the looming four-game series in Atlanta, perhaps the final week is interesting.

It doesn't look like the Braves plan to take their foot off the gas. Tuesday's win clinched their first series victory in San Francisco since 2011, just two days after they won their first series in Arizona since 2012.

West coast woes? They're 5-1 on this trip, winning in a variety of ways you'd expect from a postseason team. The Braves are beyond the surprise stage; they smell blood. They expect to win.

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