Pettibone able to take the heat

Phillies pitcher Jonathan Pettibone.(Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Jonathan Pettibone knew he had a major challenge on Sunday, both from the free-swinging Atlanta Braves and the thermometer.

Game time temperature for Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Braves was 95 degrees.

“It was hot from the start,” Pettibone said.

So was the Phillies rookie righthander.

On a day he admittedly struggled with the heat, Pettibone allowed just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings during Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Braves at steamy Citizens Bank Park.

Pettibone hasn’t been dominating this season but he has been thrown into a difficult situation and hasn’t needed a life preserver.

Sunday was his 15th start and Pettibone has allowed more than three earned runs just three times. He still isn’t going deep into games, but that should come. The righthander is 5-3 with a 3.84 ERA.

Pettibone hopes to continue to be pitching in the heat of a pennant race. As it is, the win moved the Phillies within 7.5 games of first place Atlanta in the N.L. East. The Phillies took two of the three games this weekend against the Braves.

And while Pettibone didn’t need any extra incentive, the chance to move closer to the leaders provided additional motivation.

“You can put that extra little incentive behind it and go after a series win against the Braves,” he said. “It is a big series and we needed the win.”

Pettibone threw 96 pitches, 60 for strikes. He was spent by the time he threw his final pitch, which Freddie Freeman hit for a single to left-center.

“Pettibone threw really good, especially in the early part of the game,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was sharp and it was real hot.”

How hot?

“He definitely felt the heat after a while,” Manuel said.

For Pettibone it was mind over matter when the mound feels like an oven.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “I kept telling myself their guys have to do it, (Braves starter Kris) Medlen has to go through the same thing.”

That didn’t make it much easier.

“You can get over it,” Pettibone said. “The less you think about it, you can get through it.”

Pettibone had a strategy that didn’t exactly work as planned.

“I kind of wanted to get quicker outs so I wouldn’t have to deal with it,” he said of the heat.

One reason he threw more pitches than he would have liked is that Pettibone recorded six strikeouts, tying his career high.

Pettibone has won his last two starts, over Pittsburgh and Atlanta, two teams which are a combined 31 games over .500. He has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings during those two outings.

As each start takes on greater importance in the final 73 games, Pettibone has been a steady performer, one of the pleasant surprises of this up and down Phillies season.