The Philadelphia Phillies failed to get the bats going in opening loss against the Houston Astros. With their magic number to clinch a playoff spot at one, the Phillies would like to get the inevitable over with this evening at Minute Maid Park.
The Phillies, owners of major league baseball's best record at 94-50, fired a dud in Monday's 5-1 loss that was highlighted by the return of starter Roy Oswalt and outfielder Hunter Pence to Houston. Oswalt was treated rudely by his former teammates and allowed five runs and 11 hits in seven innings.
Pence went 2-for-4 with a double and Pete Orr knocked in the lone run for the Phillies in the second inning. Orr was playing second base in place of Chase Utley, who's recovering from a pitch to the head against Atlanta last week. Jimmy Rollins had a hit in his return to the starting lineup and had been sidelined due to an injured groin.
"It's just like any other day," Rollins told the club's site. "It's not my first time on the DL, unfortunately. I've had a couple of pinch-hit at-bats, which was fun. It went well, and I felt good. I didn't feel like I had any timing issues. That's the only thing you concern yourself with."
Philadelphia has scored no more than three runs in its last three games and hasn't dropped three straight since a season-high four-game slide from May 31- June 4. It is 12 games ahead of Atlanta for the National League East lead and can clinch a postseason berth with a win or a St. Louis loss. The Phils' magic number to claim their fifth straight division title is five.
Cole Hamels recorded his third complete game of the season and 10th of his career the last time out. The Phillies hope Hamels can give them another one when he toes the rubber tonight in Space City. Hamels is 3-2 with a 2.34 earned run average in his last eight starts and shut down Milwaukee in Thursday's 7-2 win at Miller Park, where he allowed two home runs and four hits total to push his record to 14-7 in 28 starts.
Hamels lowered his ERA to 2.60 and lifted his road record to 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA in 11 chances. The 2008 World Series MVP has faced the Astros eight times in his career -- all starts -- and is 3-2 with a subpar 4.82 ERA.
The Astros, meanwhile, have split their last six games and got a strong start from former Phillies pitcher Brett Myers in last night's win. Myers, who spent the first eight years of his career in Philly, posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season with eight innings of one-run ball.
"We can beat the better teams on any given night," Myers said. "Hopefully we keep it up."
Carlos Lee has hit safely in 20 of his last 21 games and belted a two-run homer, J.D. Martinez finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Humberto Quintero recorded three hits and an RBI for Houston, which will pin pitching duties on another former Phillie tonight in J.A. Happ. Happ has had an awful season, going 5-15 with a 5.77 ERA in 25 starts. He is 1-0 in his past two outings since a personal four-game slide and did not record a decision in Wednesday's 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh.
Happ, a left-hander, gave up four runs and five hits in five innings and struck out eight batters. He is 4-6 in 13 starts at Minute Maid Park this season and won his only start against Philadelphia on Aug. 25, 2010. In the 3-2 win at Citizens Bank Park, Happ fired 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball.
Philadelphia swept a three-game series against Houston earlier this season from April 1-3 at Citizens Bank Park.