The Montreal Expos are suddenly contenders in the NL wild-card race, and their fans are taking notice.
The surging Expos are within one game of the wild-card lead as they prepare to meet the struggling Philadelphia Phillies in the finale of a four-game series at Olympic Stadium.
Despite losing eight of nine, Philadelphia is still tied with the Florida Marlins atop the wild-card race, but seven teams are within 2 1/2 games of the top spot.
With the Expos winning four straight to close in on the Phillies and Marlins, their fans have finally started to show up at Olympic Stadium. They have drawn 63,115 in the first three games of the series.
“It’s the noise,” Expos center fielder Brad Wilkerson said. “They give a lot of energy, and it’s impressive to see them in the stands.”
After rallying from an 8-0 deficit to win 14-10 on Tuesday, the Expos beat the Phillies 9-6 Wednesday.
Montreal led 6-1 before the Phillies came back to tie the game on a grand slam by Marlon Byrd in the seventh. But Expos pinch-hitter Joe Vitiello singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom half of the inning.
“This crowd was awesome tonight,” Vitiello said. “I wish we could have this type of crowd here every night. It just fires us up, and we just want to go out there and give everything we’ve got.”
The Phillies has lost five straight to fall to 1-8 on a season-high 13-game road trip.
“We had three tough ones here,” Phillies reliever Dan Plesac said. “We had a big swing that got us back in it but you’ve got to give them credit, they’re getting big two-out hits and making great plays. They’re tough at home and they put it to us. We’ve got to try to get one tomorrow.”
STANDINGS: Phillies - 2nd place (tied), 15 GB, NL East. Expos - 4th place, 16 GB, NL East.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Amaury Telemaco (1-1, 3.75 ERA). Telemaco has pitched well in two starts since his recall from Triple-A Scranton, allowing five earned runs in 12 innings. On Saturday, he worked five innings, giving up three runs and six hits in a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Javier Vazquez (11-8, 3.27 ERA). After a pitching a three-hitter in a 4-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 18, Vazquez was brilliant again on Saturday. He allowed just three hits in nine scoreless innings, but did not get a decision in Montreal’s 1-0, 10-inning loss to San Diego. The 27-year-old right-hander is 9-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 19 career games against the Phillies.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .320 avg.; Jim Thome, 36 HRs, 100 RBIs and 86 runs; Bobby Abreu, 17 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .326 avg.; Vladimir Guerrero, 19 HRs; Orlando Cabrera, 69 RBIs, 86 runs and 21 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 9-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Phillies - LF Pat Burrell is batting .314 (11-for-35) in his career against RHP Vazquez. … RHP Mike Williams was placed on the Phillies’ bereavement list Wednesday and RHP Terry Adams was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left oblique muscle. Williams left the team to tend to family medical matters. RHP Brandon Duckworth was called up from Triple-A Scranton. … RHP Geoff Geary, whose contract was purchased from Scranton earlier in the day, made his major league debut Wednesday and allowed one run in one inning. Expos - SS Cabrera is 0-for-14 in his career against RHP Telemaco. … The Expos, who are 15-10 this month, have clinched their second winning August in the past nine seasons. … RF Guerrero has had two or more hits in five of his last eight games. He is 13-for-31 (.419) during that stretch.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Phillies - 31-36 on the road; Expos - 45-23 at home.
INJURIES: Phillies - RHP Adams (oblique), 15-day DL; 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL. Expos - C Michael Barrett (hip), 15-day DL; 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Claudio Vargas (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 60-day DL.