Millwood, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Atlanta Braves and is already a 10-game winner, thinks the real fun will occur when the Phillies go on a late-season run.
“I think everybody looks at it as we haven’t played the way we’re capable, yet we’re still right in the thick of things,” Millwood said. “Everybody here is pumped that sooner or later we’re going to turn it around and get on a real hot streak. That will be a lot of fun.”
While the Phillies look to maintain their one-game lead over Arizona in the wild-card race, they will also be focused on closing the 8 1/2 -game gap between them and the NL East-leading Braves over the second half of the season.
Millwood will try to get the Phillies started in that direction when he takes the mound for the opener of a four-game series against the Montreal Expos at Veterans Stadium.
Philadelphia had won five straight before falling to the New York Mets 4-3 on Sunday. Still, the loss did not put a damper on the Phillies’ seven-game road trip, which they finished 5-2.
“I’m satisfied with the way we’re playing,” said Phillies manager Larry Bowa, whose team will play nine of its next 11 against NL East rivals.
As the Phillies try to close the gap on the Braves, the Expos are trying not to spiral out of the NL East race.
Montreal has lost seven of nine. On Sunday, they clinched their fourth consecutive series loss with an 11-4 defeat against the Florida Marlins.
Manager Frank Robinson thinks the break came at a good time for his team.
“Hopefully it will re-energize us—let us refocus and be able to come back and play better than we have been playing,” Robinson said. “We are capable of playing better.”
STANDINGS: Expos - 3rd place, 12 1/2 GB, NL East. Phillies - 2nd place, 8 1/2 GB, NL East.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Tomo Ohka (7-9, 4.51 ERA). Ohka pitched extremely well on July 9, but he still ended up with a 2-0 loss to Millwood and the Phillies. The 27-year-old right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up two runs and three hits in an eight-inning effort. In seven career games against Philadelphia, Ohka is 4-2 with a 1.69 ERA.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Millwood (10-6, 3.60 ERA). Millwood was dominant against the Expos on July 9, pitching a three-hitter in his second shutout of the season. In his past three starts, the 28-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA. Millwood is 10-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 career games against the Expos.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Expos - Jose Vidro, .332 avg.; Orlando Cabrera, 13 HRs, 51 RBIs and 61 runs; Endy Chavez, 15 SBs. Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .332 avg.; Jim Thome, 23 HRs, 67 RBIs and 60 runs; Jimmy Rollins, 11 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 6-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Expos - 2B Vidro is batting .340 (16-for-47) in his career against RHP Millwood. … RF Vladimir Guerrero, on the disabled list since June 6 with a herniated disc in his lower back, will begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Brevard County on Thursday. … SS Cabrera is batting .333 (15-for-45) during an 11-game hitting streak. Phillies - 2B Placido Polanco is batting .500 (19-for-38) during a 10-game hitting streak. … C Lieberthal is 1-for-15 (.067) in his career against RHP Ohka. … The Phillies had homered in seven straight game before not hitting any on Sunday. They had a total of 12 during that stretch.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Expos - 21-27 on the road; Phillies - 26-20 at home.
INJURIES: Expos - IF Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; OF Guerrero (back), 15-day DL; RHP Luis Ayala (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendecitis), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL. Phillies - 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL.