Losers in their last eight meetings with the Marlins, the Phillies open a crucial three-game set at Veterans Stadium pitting the NL’s top wild card contenders.
“If you don’t take every game like it’s sudden death now, you’re going to be home, watching on TV,” Phillies manager Bowa said. “There’s got to be a sense of urgency. You’ve got to try to win every game. You’ve got to go for perfection. You’ve got to try to sweep people.”
Six of Philadelphia’s final 12 games are against Florida, which has not lost to the Phillies since April 15. The Marlins have a 1 1/2 -game lead over the Phillies for the wild card.
“We’re not going in there thinking because we’ve beaten them eight in a row, ‘Hey, they’re pushovers,”’ Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “They’re tougher now when you figure the law of averages will catch up to you sooner or later. You don’t beat a club up all the time. It’s a very important series.”
Florida has been hot lately, having won seven straight before blowing a lead in the ninth Sunday and losing 8-4 to the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins missed a chance for their first sweep of the NL East leaders since 1996, but have still won 13 of 16 overall.
“This is the most important series of the year,” Florida’s Juan Pierre said. “We need to do our job and get some distance between us.”
The Phillies enjoyed a day off Monday after playing 27 games in 27 days. They went 13-14 during that span, which began with them holding a half-game lead in the wild-card standings.
After a 1-9 start, Philadelphia went 12-5. The turnaround came after Bowa blasted the players following a loss to Montreal on Aug. 28, and the team then held a players-only meeting.
Entering this series, the Phillies realize they can’t look any further than Tuesday’s game.
“It’s too hard to try to win three games when it’s just the first game,” pitcher Randy Wolf said. “It would be great to sweep, but we’ve also got another series against them (Sept. 23-25).”
STANDINGS: Marlins - 2nd place, 9 1/2 GB, NL East. Phillies - 3rd place, 11 GB, NL East.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Carl Pavano (11-11, 3.96 ERA). Pavano has been stellar in his last four outings, allowing just six runs in 28 1-3 innings. He has lowered his ERA from 4.34 over that stretch. The right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts against Philadelphia this season, allowed one run in seven innings on Sept. 10 in a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Vicente Padilla (13-10, 3.70 ERA). Padilla had won back-to-back starts before losing 4-2 to Atlanta on Wednesday. The right-hander gave up all four runs and nine hits while walking five in six innings. He’d allowed only one run in his previous 16 innings. Padilla is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts this season against Florida.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .322 avg. and 94 runs; Mike Lowell, 32 HRs and 105 RBIs; Pierre, 60 SBs. Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .321 avg.; Jim Thome, 40 HRs, 117 RBIs and 100 runs; Bobby Abreu, 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Marlins, 9-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - Florida has not committed an error in a season-high seven straight games. … LF-3B Miguel Cabrera went 7-for-12 in the series against the Braves. He is 2-for-2 with a homer in his career against RHP Padilla. … 1B Jeff Conine is hitting .178 in 13 games since rejoining Florida. Phillies - Padilla has served up four homers in 16 1-3 innings this season against the Marlins. … SS Jimmy Rollins is 5-for-12 (.417) this season against RHP Pavano. … INF Placido Polanco could return for this series after missing 15 consecutive games with a deep bruise in his left quadriceps.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 35-39 on the road; Phillies - 45-27 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - 3B Lowell (hand), 15-day DL; LHP Armando Almanza (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (elbow), 60-day DL. Phillies - INF Polanco (quadriceps), day-to-day; 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 60-day DL.