ATLANTA (AP) — Brandon Phillips hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday, highlighting his long-awaited season debut and capping the biggest comeback by the Boston Red Sox this year for a 9-8 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The Red Sox overcame a late six-run deficit and seesawed past Atlanta to sweep the three-game series between division leaders.
Boston, with the best record in the majors, scored six times in the eighth to make it 7-all. After Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer with two outs in the Braves eighth, the Red Sox bounced back for their 97th win this year.
The 37-year-old Phillips was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday and given his first start at second base in the final game of the interleague set. After Andrew Bentinendi’s one-out single off A.J. Minter (4-3), Phillips hit the two-out homer deep into the left field seats.
Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who hit another leadoff homer in the first, didn’t move as Phillips’ shot sailed over his head. Phillips scored three runs, drew two walks and made the most of his first hit with Boston.
Braves stadium organist Matthew Kaminski played “Welcome Back” before Phillips’ first at-bat in the second inning. Phillips, a high school star in the Atlanta area who played most of last season with the Braves, tipped his helmet and then walked.
Phillips was a three-time All-Star second baseman with Cincinnati. Known for his acrobatic fielding, he connected for his 211th career home run.
In a game packed with momentum shifts, Freeman hit his tiebreaking homer off Brandon Workman (4-0). Freeman was given his first break from the starting lineup this season before coming off the bench in a defensive switch.
Atlanta led 7-1 before Boston scored six times in the eighth to tie the game. Atlanta right-hander Dan Winkler gave up four hits and four runs without retiring a batter. Christian Vazquez got two hits in the inning, Blake Swihart hit a two-run double and pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler tied the game with a two-run single. The Red Sox sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning, using five pinch-hitters and batting about 40 minutes against four relievers.
Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 38th save.
The collapse by the Braves’ bullpen wasted a strong start by right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who gave up only two hits and one run in six innings. He provided stability, with two walks and five strikeouts, one day after Braves pitchers combined for nine walks in a 5-1 loss.
Ozzie Albies hit a two-run triple in Atlanta’s five-run fifth inning that made it 7-1.
With the sweep, Boston has won 25 of its last 29 games against National League teams. Boston began the day leading the second-place Yankees by 8 ½ games in the AL East. NL East-leading Atlanta was three games ahead of Philadelphia.
Acuna homered off Hector Velazquez’s second pitch, giving the rookie a franchise single-season record eight leadoff homers. Acuna was tied with Marquis Grissom, who hit seven leadoff homers in 1996. Overall, Acuna has 24 homers, including 17 since the All-Star break.
The Braves scored five runs in the fifth off reliever Drew Pomeranz, who recorded only one out.
Braves SS Dansby Swanson didn’t start after he was hit on his helmet by an 85-mph slider from Rick Porcello in the second inning on Tuesday night. Swanson had ringing in his ears but passed the concussion tests. Swanson later came off the bench and played Wednesday.
Red Sox: LHP David Price, who suffered a bruised left wrist when hit by a line drive in his last start against Miami on Aug. 29, will start when Boston opens a home series against Houston on Friday in another matchup of first-place teams. The Red Sox are off on Thursday.
Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.98) will face RHP Zack Greinke when the Braves open a four-game series at Arizona on Thursday night.