Philadelphia Phillies manager Larry Bowa waited a long time for his players to start hitting in the clutch. Now that they are, they are in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season.
Philadelphia will look to win its eighth straight game when it meets the Chicago Cubs in the third game of their four-game series at Veterans Stadium.
Winners of 12 of their last 14 overall, the Phillies have closed within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Just two weeks ago, they were 10 games back.
“We’re getting timely hitting,” Bowa said. “Our pitching and defense has been there since the start.”
On Tuesday, it was catcher Mike Lieberthal who contributed the crucial hit. Lieberthal laced a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Phillies a 4-3 win.
“It was my turn, I guess,” Lieberthal said. “I can’t remember the last time I got a game-winning hit.”
Jim Thome, who hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the Phillies’ 4-3 win on Monday, went 2-for-5 Tuesday. Making a strong push to be named to the All-Star team, Thome is batting .378 (17-for-45) with six home runs and nine RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.
The Cubs have lost six of seven and 13 of 19.
“This is like a recurring nightmare,” Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. “It seems like the other team always gets the big hit when it needs it.”
STANDINGS: Cubs - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Phillies - 2nd place, 4 1/2 GB, NL East.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Matt Clement (5-7, 4.93 ERA). Clement has allowed no more than three earned runs in four of his last five starts. On Friday, he went 7 2-3 innings, giving up three runs and five hits, but he did not get a decision in the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The 28-year-old right-hander is 6-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 10 career games against the Phillies.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Brandon Duckworth (3-2, 5.08 ERA). Duckworth left the Phillies’ 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday after just one inning after being struck by a line drive on his right forearm. The 27-year-old right-hander has made one previous start against the Cubs, but did not get a decision after allowing two earned runs in six innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Corey Patterson, .300 avg., 13 HRs, 55 RBIs, 48 runs and 15 SBs. Phillies - Lieberthal, .331 avg.; Thome, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs and 54 runs; Bobby Abreu, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins, 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - SS Alex Gonzalez homered in the third inning Tuesday for his 1,000th career hit. … LF Moises Alou, who went 0-for-4 Tuesday, is in a 2-for-20 slump. … Nine of the Cubs’ last 11 losses have been by two runs or fewer. Phillies - RF Abreu is batting .400 (10-for-25) in his career against RHP Clement. … The Phillies’ bullpen has a 0.29 ERA in the last 31 1-3 innings. … 2B Polanco has made just two errors in 61 games this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 22-21 on the road; Phillies - 25-16 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL. Phillies - INF Tyler Houston (finger), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL.