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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, September 13th (All times eastern)

Philadelphia Phillies (72-71) at Houston Astros (45-98), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia - Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.24) Houston - Lucas Harrell (10-9, 3.83)

(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies, left for dead weeks ago, have garnered new life Dr. Frankenstein would appreciate.

The Phillies are alive in the wild card race, standing just three games off the final postseason spot in the National League. The momentum the Phillies have built is jarring memories from their 1980 World Series run, when a big September galvanized the team to the Fall Classic.

Philadelphia hopes to keep its current push going in the opener of a four-game series against the Houston Astros Thursday at Minute Maid Park, and is riding a season-high seven-game winning streak. The Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins with Wednesday afternoon's 3-1 win behind another two-run homer from Jimmy Rollins.

Rollins broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run shot in the seventh inning off of Marlins starter Josh Johnson, who gave up all three runs in seven innings to suffer the loss. Rollins, who leads the Phillies with 19 home runs, is batting .313 with five homers, 15 runs and 17 RBI in his last 21 games.

"Jimmy can hurt you," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "Jimmy knows how to hit. He's got a good stroke. You get some guys that want to throw some fastballs to him, he's got enough patience to get some good balls to hit at times. He can definitely hurt you. You get the ball down on him, yeah, he's got good pop."

John Mayberry drove in a run and Cliff Lee allowed just one unearned run in seven innings for the win. Lee is optimistic on making a playoff push.

"I think it's possible," Lee said. "We got a few teams ahead of us, but all we can control is what we can control. If we continue to play the way we have since the All-Star break, we got a pretty good chance."

Jonathan Papelbon struck out three in the ninth for his 34th save.

The Phillies are 21-8 in their last 29 games at Citizens Bank Park and are tied with Milwaukee in the wild card standings with 19 games to play. They have the best record in the NL since Aug. 23 at 15-4 and have outscored the opposition, 34-19, during the winning streak.

Tyler Cloyd will kick off Philly's seven-game road trip tonight on the mound and the young right-hander is 1-1 in three starts with a 4.24 earned run average. He lost his major league debut on Aug. 29 versus the New York Mets, defeated Cincinnati on the road on Sept. 3 and is coming off Sunday's no- decision versus Colorado.

Cloyd, who shined for Triple-A Lehigh Valley most of the summer, allowed four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 7-4 win over the Reds. He hopes to remain unbeaten (1-0) on the road in his first appearance against Houston.

The Astros have played better ball this month, winning five of 11 games, but still own the worst record in the bigs at 45-98.

Houston lost two of three versus the Chicago Cubs to start a seven-game homestand and dropped a 5-1 decision on Wednesday. Fernando Abad was pulled after 3 1/3 innings and allowed one run and four hits.

"Abad is going to have to battle," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "We're trying to get him to make quality pitches and he's working hard in his bullpens and his sides and he's just got to bring it across the lines."

Fernando Martinez had a pinch-hit RBI single and Brandon Barnes posted two hits and a run scored.

Lucas Harrell is slated to take on the Phillies tonight and is 0-1 over his last four starts. Harrell has posted three straight no-decisions and allowed three runs in six innings of a 5-3 win at Cincinnati last Friday. The righty, who is 10-9 in 28 starts with a 3.83 ERA, lost his only appearance to Philadelphia back on May 14.

In a 5-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park, Harrell was reached for three runs, two of which were earned, in 5 2/3 innings.

The Astros were swept in that two-game set at Philadelphia from May 14-15 and have lost six of the previous eight matchups between the two clubs.

09/13 10:29:56 ET