The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies may have accomplished something that no other team in the club's history has ever done, but this squad knows it won't mean anything if they don't end the season as World Series champions.
The first step is securing a fifth straight National League East title, a quest the Phils hope to resume tonight with a sixth consecutive victory in the middle portion of a three-game series with the Florida Marlins.
After sweeping a four-game series with the Reds, the Phillies took last night's opener, 5-3, to move 42 games over .500 (88-46) for the first time in the team's lengthy history. John Mayberry Jr. hit a two-run homer and also lifted a sacrifice fly, while Roy Oswalt allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings to secure the victory.
"I threw a lot of pitches early. I really didn't find my mechanics until the fourth inning," Oswalt said. "I felt pretty good after that."
The win pushed Philadelphia's edge over second-place Atlanta to 8 1/2 games in the NL East.
In addition to Mayberry's clutch hitting, the Phils took advantage of two errors and three wild pitches by the Marlins. Florida's third straight loss and fifth in six games left manager Jack McKeon calling out his club afterwards.
"I don't believe in being mediocre," McKeon told his team's website. "I'm getting tired of looking at this stuff. We're better than that. It's time to wake up. The fans deserve better, the organization deserves better, or on the other hand, maybe they can't play. Maybe they're not good enough. That's up to them. They have enough -- 25, 26 games -- to show us they can play."
Jose Lopez hit a solo home run for Florida and Brad Hand, recalled from Double-A Jacksonville before the game, surrendered four runs -- three earned -- over five-plus frames.
Cole Hamels will make his second start for the Phillies since a brief stint on the disabled list due to left shoulder inflammation and looked sharp in his return to action on Monday versus the Reds. The left-hander did not get a decision, but allowed just a run on two hits over six innings, striking out seven without a walk.
"I think I did pretty well and I look forward to the next start," said Hamels, who is 13-7 with a 2.58 earned run average this season.
The 27-year-old lefty is only 6-7 with a 3.41 ERA lifetime versus the Marlins, but has a 2.05 ERA in three starts against them this year. That includes a victory in that last meeting on July 5 when he hurled eight innings of two-run ball.
Taking the hill tonight for the Marlins will be Ricky Nolasco, who is 0-2 with a 10.47 ERA over his past three starts to fall back below .500 on the season.
The right-hander was pounded for 11 runs over just three innings in a loss at Colorado on Aug. 17. He has allowed four runs in a pair of 6 2/3-inning starts since, including a loss to the Mets on Monday. Nolasco gave up nine hits, but did not allow a homer for the first time in five starts.
Nolasco, now 9-10 with a 4.34 ERA this season, suffered a tough-luck loss to the Phillies on July 4 when he gave up one run over seven innings in a 1-0 defeat. The 28-year-old is 6-4 with a 3.36 ERA in his career against his National League East rival.
The Phillies are 10-4 against the Marlins this season.