To have a shot at getting it, the Phillies need their pitching staff to buckle down and the Dodgers need a stagnant offense to wake up as the teams begin a three-game set at Veterans Stadium.
Philadelphia pulled within 4 1/2 games of first-place Atlanta in the NL East earlier this month, but has dropped six of eight while its deficit to the Braves—16-5 since July 4—has increased to double digits.
Los Angeles has lost six of nine since the All-Star break, falling 12 1/2 games back of San Francisco, which has won 10 of 11 to take control of the NL West.
The Phillies lead the NL wild card race, with the Dodgers trailing by 3 1/2 games.
Philadelphia has lost four straight, with its hurlers getting ripped for 34 runs. The staff has given up an average of nearly seven runs in the last eight games, with the starters pitching just 40 1-3 innings while posting a 6.69 ERA.
“Our bullpen has been completely exhausted,” Phillies manager Larry Bowa said after Monday’s 6-4, 10-inning loss to Cincinnati.
Bowa’s relievers have thrown 28 2-3 innings over the last eight games.
In losing six of nine, the Dodgers have totaled just 20 runs. The Los Angeles offense has managed only three runs in the last four games, though the pitching has been so good the Dodgers have managed two 1-0 wins during that stretch.
“I don’t know what the ramifications would have been had we gotten swept, but I do know that by winning the ballgame we’ve stayed very close to the Diamondbacks as far as second place is concerned and picked up a game in the wild card,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said.
“So, heading to Philadelphia with two months left in the season is still a very interesting thing for us.”
“There’s no doubt I’ve never been a part of so many well-pitched games,” said Burnitz, acquired July 14 from the New York Mets.
STANDINGS (through July 27): Dodgers - 3rd place, 12 1/2 GB, NL West. Phillies - 2nd place, 10 1/2 GB, NL East.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Kazuhisa Ishii (9-4, 3.37 ERA). The Japanese left-hander is 2-1 in his last three starts despite a 7.16 ERA. In his previous three outings, Ishii went 0-1 despite allowing just five runs in 17 innings. He lost to Colorado on Wednesday as he surrendered six runs—five earned—and eight hits in five innings of an 8-3 defeat. Left-handers are batting just .172 against Ishii, who did not get a decision in his only career start against Philadelphia.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Vicente Padilla (9-8, 3.89 ERA). The right-hander, who is 5-1 in his last eight starts, pushed his record above .500 for the first time since April despite a sub-par outing Thursday. He gave up six runs—five earned—and seven hits in six innings of a 14-6 victory. He fell to 1-2 lifetime against the Dodgers on April 30, allowing four runs and five hits—including two homers—over six innings in a 4-0 defeat.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .293 avg.; Burnitz, 21 HRs and 52 RBIs; Shawn Green, 54 runs; Dave Roberts, 24 SBs. Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .316 avg.; Jim Thome, 27 HRs, 78 RBIs and 70 runs; Jimmy Rollins, 13 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - Among the struggling Los Angeles hitters are C Lo Duca, who is hitless in his last 15 at-bats, and 3B Adrian Beltre, in a 1-for-21 slump. … RF Green, who totaled 91 homers over the 2001 and 2002 seasons, has only one homer in his last 16 games. … The Dodgers are 48-0 when leading after eight innings. Phillies - 1B Thome has 12 strikeouts in the last five games and leads the majors with 119. … 2B Placido Polanco is batting .394 (37-for-94) this month after hitting .237 in June. … LHP Rheal Cormier has allowed one run in his last 30 2-3 innings of relief.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 25-25 on the road; Phillies - 29-24 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; INF Ron Coomer (dizziness), 15-day DL; 1B Fred McGriff (abductor), 15-day DL; OF Brian Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL. Phillies - 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL.