ATLANTA (AP) — Ryne Sandberg sees the Phillies’ final loss of a disappointing season as a reminder that improved pitching depth should be a goal for 2014.
Zach Miner was knocked out in the third inning after giving up five runs, and Philadelphia closed its worst finish in 13 years with a 12-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
Six Phillies pitchers combined to allow 12 hits and walk nine batters.
“It’s a tough go,” Sandberg said. “It just stresses more the importance of depth in pitching and stabilizing and making decisions on the pitching staff next year and also have backup depth at pitching.”
Miner made only his third start of the season.
Philadelphia (73-89) finished fourth in the NL East with its worst record and finish since 2000, when it was last at 65-97.
The Phillies watched after the game as Braves players gathered around a 2013 sign that eventually will be placed on the outfield facade with other division championship years. The Braves won their first NL East title since 2005.
“This isn’t the situation that you envisioned going into spring training,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who had two hits to finish at .284.
“If there is a bright spot, it gives us an opportunity to get to work a little bit sooner. We can start improving next week.”
Erik Kratz hit a three-run homer for the Phillies, who trailed 5-0 after three innings.
After five straight first-place finishes, the Phillies fell to 81-81 last season. The decline continued this season, and manager Charlie Manuel was fired on Aug 16.
The Phillies were 20-22 under Sandberg, who was given a three-year contract on Sept. 22 and said he’s looking forward to his first full season.
Sandberg said Utley “was a bright spot this year; healthy, steady right down to the end.”
Sandberg said he is “anxious to see about the catching situation” next season.
“I would call that a priority, starting now with the season being over with,” he said.
Evan Gattis had a two-run homer among his three hits and Elliot Johnson drove in five runs for Atlanta.
The Braves will have home-field advantage against the Dodgers in the NL division series, which begins Thursday at Turner Field.
Atlanta (96-66) finished with its best record since also winning 96 games in 2004.
“I’m proud of a good season, 30 games over .500, 96 wins,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “It’s a hell of an accomplishment for our club.”
The Braves needed St. Louis to lose for a shot a home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. But the Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-0 to lock up the top spot.
Johnson had a two-run triple in the sixth and a two-run single in the eighth while setting his career high with five RBIs. He started at third base as Chris Johnson was given a day off to rest his sore right shoulder.
Braves catcher Gerald Laird had four hits and scored four runs. Jose Constanza drove in two runs with a pinch-hit single in the fifth after the Phillies cut the lead to 5-4.
Gattis and Julio Teheran (14-8) were the Braves’ top rookies this season. Teheran allowed four runs on six hits in five innings.
Gattis finished second among NL rookies with 21 homers, behind San Diego’s Jedd Gyorko. He leads all rookies in the majors with 65 RBIs. Gattis has started at catcher, left field and first base and is expected to start in left field in the playoffs if catcher Brian McCann returns from an adductor injury, as expected.
Freddie Freeman had two hits, including a run-scoring single in the Braves’ three-run first. For the season he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs.
Phillies third baseman Cody Asche needed seven stitches after leaving the game with a cut chin in the first inning. He was hurt when a throw from left fielder Domonic Brown bounced and hit his chin as Jason Heyward was sliding into third base. Freddy Galvis replaced Asche.
Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd, who made 11 starts, gave up two runs on three hits in the eighth in only his second relief appearance.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth.
NOTES: Miner had a 3.72 ERA in 13 relief appearances and a 5.79 ERA in three starts. … The homer by Kratz was his first since June 7 at Milwaukee. … Gonzalez said the decision to start Elliot Johnson had nothing to do with Chris Johnson’s dugout altercation with first base coach Terry Pendleton after Saturday night’s loss. Chris Johnson said he apologized to Pendleton for throwing his helmet, which he said bounced and hit Pendleton. Pendleton then grabbed Johnson’s jersey with two hands and the two exchanged words. … The Braves’ season attendance was 2,548,679, their top total since 2007. Sunday’s turnout was 42,194. … Laird’s four hits matched his career high.
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