(SportsNetwork.com) - After avoiding their worst start in 54 years, the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday afternoon look to secure a split of their four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Phillies lost the first two games of this series to fall to 11-23 for the first time since 1971. Riding a four-game slide and with losses in 11 of their past 14, the Phils avoided their first 11-24 start since 1961 with Wednesday night's 3-2 victory.
Cole Hamels allowed a pair of runs -- both in the fifth inning -- and struck out nine over seven innings to get the win. Philadelphia responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take Hamels off the hook, capped with Freddy Galvis' two-out hit that scored Carlos Ruiz.
"Total team effort," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. "Hamels was outstanding, and the offense bounced back for three runs after we went down two."
The Pirates were poised to tie the game in the ninth when Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon's throwing error moved pinch-runner Steve Lombardozzi to third base with one out. Lombardozzi tagged from third on Jordy Mercer's flyout to right field, but Jeff Francoeur's strong throw beat him to the plate and allowed Ruiz to apply the game-ending tag.
Francoeur's throw helped Papelbon become the Phillies' all-time leader in saves with 113.
"I think it's an aggressive play and it's a play we had a chance to score a run on," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "That's the thing. He's going to the wall and he's trying to catch a ball at the wall and then come off and make a throw. He made an excellent throw."
Francisco Liriano took the loss despite seven good innings that saw him allow three runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Andrew McCutchen's single scored both Pittsburgh runs, but the club had a four-game win streak snapped.
Getting the call for the Phillies today will be Aaron Harang, who has lost two of his past three starts.
Harang is still a solid 3-3 with a 2.38 earned run average on the season and pitched well enough to beat the New York Mets on Saturday. However, he took a 3-2 loss after being charged with three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and a walk over seven innings.
The 37-year-old righty is 16-8 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 career starts against the Pirates.
Vance Worley aims to win for the first time in four starts this afternoon for the Pirates.
Worley has followed up a loss to the Chicago Cubs with a pair of no-decisions and struggled last time out against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. He was touched for five runs on nine hits and three walks over five innings, failing to strike out a batter in a game his club managed to win 7-5.
The right-hander was a former third-round pick of the Phillies in 2008 and spent his first three major league seasons with the franchise. Worley beat his former club the only other time he faced them despite giving up three runs over five innings.
The Pirates have won eight of 10 and 14 of their last 19 versus the Phillies. They are 10-3 in their past 13 trips to Philadelphia.