By Sam Bush

Tyler Flowers hit a three-run homer, Dallas Keuchel struck out eight and the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves beat the Phils  3-1.

The Phillies and New York Mets are tied, two games behind the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee for the second NL wild-card spot.

Keuchel (8-5) gave up one run and three hits to win his fifth straight start.

Despite a suspect rotation, the Phillies didn’t pursue Keuchel in free agency while he sat for several months. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner eventually signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Atlanta in June.

”I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves and I would, too,” Keuchel said.

Keuchel lowered his ERA to 3.35 and the Braves are 10-6 in his starts.

”The guy competes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. ”He leaves it out there every time he pitches. I mean, he gives everything he has out there.”

Chris Martin struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh. Shane Greene worked the eighth and Mark Melancon finished for his 10th save in 10 tries with Atlanta.

Melancon got some defensive help to close it. With two runners on and one out, shortstop Dansby Swanson made a leaping catch on pinch-hitter Brad Miller’s liner up the middle. Third baseman Josh Donaldson then reached over the dugout railing and snared Maikel Franco’s foul pop.

Phillies starter Zach Eflin (8-12) allowed three unearned runs and three hits in 3 2/3 innings.

”He had a difficult time putting hitters away,” manager Gabe Kapler said. ”He didn’t get one pitch up enough and Flowers punished it.”

Donaldson reached on shortstop Jean Segura’s throwing error with one out in the fourth and Matt Joyce followed with a single. After pinch-hitter Rafael Ortega struck out, Flowers drove a 2-2 fastball into the left-field seats to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins hit consecutive singles to start the bottom half of the inning. Harper scored on Scott Kingery’s fielder’s choice grounder to cut it to 3-1.

The Phillies had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, but Harper grounded into a double play.

”I have to get the job done there,” Harper said.

Harper saved a run in the ninth when he made a perfect, no-hop throw to the plate to retire Austin Riley trying to score from second on a single by Ozzie Albies. He has 12 outfield assists, one shy of his career-best.