Saturday, May 30, 2009
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PHILADELPHIA - Now, the Philadelphia Phillies can rest and prepare to defend their World Series title.Kyle Kendrick pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Pedro Martinez and the Phillies beat the Houston Astros 10-3 Wednesday night to clinch their third straight NL East crown.The Braves, still clinging to hopes of winning the NL wild card, lost to the Marlins 5-4 despite rallying in the ninth.Raul Ibanez hit his career-high 34th homer and Jimmy Rollins had a double and triple for Philadelphia, which is heading to the postseason for the third straight year for the first time since Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and crew won three consecutive division titles from 1976-78.The Phillies are trying to become the first repeat champions since the New York Yankees won three World Series in a row from 1998-2000. The Cincinnati Reds were the last NL team to win two straight in 1975-76.J.R. Towles, a career .187 hitter (43 for 230), hit a pair of solo homers off Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. But the Astros couldn't spoil Philadelphia's party.Kendrick (3-1) gave up two hits and struck out four. Martinez lasted just four innings, allowing three runs and six hits in his first start since a neck strain forced him out of a game at Atlanta on Sept. 19. Brad Lidge, who has 11 blown saves after a perfect season last year, came in to get the last out after Scott Eyre retired the first two batters in the ninth.