PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia's reign as NL East champions is almost certain to come to an end after this season after five straight titles. The Phillies had another streak stop Monday night, as the club failed to sell out a regular-season home game for the first time after 257 in a row.
Ben Sheets pitched into the eighth inning and Jason Heyward homered to lead the streaking Atlanta Braves to a 6-1 victory over the Phillies in front of 41,665 at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies' crowd halted the club's consecutive sellout streak, which is the longest ever in the NL and third-longest in MLB history according to the club. The streak started on July 7, 2009.
"You kind of know it's going to happen," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "You would hope that it wouldn't. You would hope that one bad season wouldn't break it up. But that's the way it goes.
"People aren't going to spend money and come to the game if they don't feel they're getting their money's worth. And this year we've been a little short."
The Phillies are 23-31 at home this season.
"It's kind of up to us that we get our team together, get better and get our crowd back," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'm sure we can. I'm sorry because we didn't sell out. It just goes to show you what kind of a season we've had."
Overall, Philadelphia was 154-103 during those games with Citizens Bank Park averaging 45,082 fans per game for a total draw of 11,585,952.
"It was a heck of a run, we had fun," Rollins said. "I know I go out every night, first thing I do is look up and see how many seats are empty at the beginning of the game and by the third inning see how many of those seats were filled. It was something we came to expect really. That's a lot of baseball games. There's been a lot of winning in that time. Hopefully they enjoyed it as much as we did.
"Forty-one thousand's nothing to shake your head at. It's just not a sellout. They're still showing up it's just that streak ended and now we gotta get back on the left column and start another one."
Rollins and the Phillies, who began Monday 16 games back in the NL East, will have to wait until Tuesday to do it.
Sheets (4-1) had his longest outing since joining Atlanta's rotation on July 15 after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He allowed one run on seven hits while walking one and striking out none.
"You can really tell the experience when he's on the mound," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He just keeps on giving us good outings."
Sheets is averaging almost one less strikeout per game since his comeback, 5.4 strikeouts per game before the injury to 4.6 this season, but he owns a 1.13 ERA in five starts this season. He had a career 3.80 ERA entering this season.
"He doesn't have the pop on his fastball he used to, but he knows how to pitch," Manuel said. "He worked us in and out and it looked like our left-handed hitters, especially, were trying to do too much."
Freddie Freeman drove in two runs, Brian McCann went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Dan Uggla had a pair of hits for the Braves, who have won 11 of 13 overall.
"We had a good overall offensive performance," Gonzalez said.
John Mayberry Jr. homered for the Phillies, who have lost seven straight to Atlanta.
Eric O'Flaherty and Cristhian Martinez relieved Sheets and combined to pitch 1 2-3 scoreless innings.
The Braves took a 3-0 lead in the third, highlighted by Freeman's two-run double that bounced just over the first-base bag. Martin Prado scored the second run on Freeman's hit, just beating Brian Schneider's tag. Manuel came out to argue the play, but replays appeared to show home-plate umpire Eric Cooper made the correct call.
Freeman, who went to third on the throw to the plate, reached on a wild pitch by Vance Worley.
Worley (6-7) had his shortest outing of the season, lasting just 3 2-3 innings and giving up four runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts. He had a stomach ailment before the game, but told Manuel he wanted to pitch.
"I definitely wasn't feeling my best, but I wanted to go out there and pitch for my team," Worley said. "I went out there with heart."
Atlanta tacked on a run in the fourth when Paul Janish scored on Michael Bourn's RBI single to left. Philadelphia got that run back, drawing within 4-1 on Mayberry Jr.'s leadoff homer to left in the bottom half.
Atlanta went up 5-1 in the seventh when Heyward scored from first on a single. Brian McCann lined to right and the ball glanced off the tip of charging Nate Schierholtz's glove. Schierholtz thought he caught the ball and was slow to react, allowing Heyward to race all the way around to home plate.
Heyward made it a five-run game with his 18th homer, a solo shot to right in the ninth.
Atlanta won its second straight Monday game after losing the first 12 Monday games of the season. As they did last Monday when they broke the losing streak, the Braves wore their socks high as a team.
"We'll keep doing whatever works," Gonzalez said.
NOTES: The Phillies activated left-hander Raul Valdes from the DL and optioned infielder Hector Luna to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Valdes had been out since July 9 with a right hip strain. He pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings Monday, striking out three. ... Jimmy Rollins snapped an 0-for-16 skid with an eighth-inning single. ... Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels (11-6, 3.34 ERA) is scheduled to face Atlanta lefty Mike Minor (6-7, 5.01) in the second of the three-game set at 7:05 Tuesday.