If the Philadelphia Phillies hope to capture the NL wild card, they’ll need to play well on the road over the season’s final three weeks.
The Phillies, who are tied with the Florida Marlins for the wild-card lead, have lost 18 of their last 24 on the road. After going 6-1 on their recently completed homestand, they opened a seven-game trip with a 6-4 loss to the Braves on Monday.
They’ll now turn to Wolf, who has pitched well in recent starts. In his last two outings, the All-Star left-hander is 1-0, allowing four earned runs in 14 innings.
Wolf gave up three runs—two earned—and four hits over seven innings on Thursday, but did not get a decision in the Phillies’ 6-5 win over the New York Mets.
The Phillies had won six straight and nine of 10 before Monday.
Philadelphia jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first, but starter Kevin Millwood allowed five runs in six innings.
“They’re a good team,” said Millwood, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Atlanta. “I don’t think we’re any less confident against them than anybody else.”
Mark DeRosa hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who lead the Phillies and Marlins by 12 games in the NL East. With 18 games remaining, Atlanta’s magic number is seven.
Any combination of seven wins by the Braves or losses by the second-place team will clinch Atlanta’s 12th consecutive division title.
Will Cunnane pitched a scoreless ninth Monday for his second career save— and his second in the last two days. The 29-year-old journeyman is filling in for John Smoltz, who is expected to spend another week on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.
“I’m not used to the having the crowd standing up when I’m on the mound,” Cunnane said. “I was trying to throw it a hundred and instead threw it 80. Note to self: Don’t let the crowd dictate your pitches.”
STANDINGS: Phillies - 2nd place (tied), 12 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Wolf (13-9, 4.08 ERA). Wolf is 3-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 15 career games against the Braves.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Shane Reynolds (11-8, 5.36 ERA). Reynolds has allowed at least four earned runs in three consecutive starts, going 1-2 with a 6.63 ERA in that span. He allowed four runs and five hits over six innings in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. The 35-year-old right-hander has dominated the Phillies in 16 career games, going 9-1 with a 2.83 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .323 avg.; Jim Thome, 39 HRs, 107 RBIs and 94 runs; Bobby Abreu, 20 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .335 avg. and 116 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 37 HRs; Sheffield and Rafael Furcal, 117 runs; Furcal, 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Phillies - C Lieberthal is batting .200 (5-for-25) in his career against RHP Reynolds. … The Phillies will recall SS Anderson Machado from Double-A Reading. He’ll be used primarily as a pinch-runner. … 1B Thome needs one homer to tie Rocky Colavito for 54th on the all-time list with 374. Braves - CF Andruw Jones is batting .171 (6-for-35) in his career against LHP Wolf. … 1B Julio Franco said his injured finger is still a bit sore, but will not prevent him from playing. He spent time on the DL earlier this season when a barbell rolled over the middle finger on his left hand. … RHP Darren Holmes, who had slight tears in his rotator cuff, will come off the DL on Friday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Phillies - 34-38 on the road; Braves - 50-22 at home.
INJURIES: Phillies - 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP Terry Adams (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 60-day DL. Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL.