It may ultimately be more important to the Phillies that they prevent the third-place Marlins from getting any closer.
Facing its nemesis for the last time before the final two weeks of the season, Philadelphia begins its longest road trip of the year hoping to finally end its misery against Florida.
While the Phillies chase the division-leading Atlanta Braves, who open a four-game set at Pittsburgh, the Marlins are in third at 4 1/2 games back and are four behind Philadelphia.
Of the last 22 games between these teams, the Phillies have won just three. They blew a slim wild-card lead over the Marlins late last season, and Florida went on to win the World Series while Philadelphia missed the playoffs.
The Phillies had lost nine in a row to the Marlins, including six this season, before beating them 2-1 on Wednesday. Florida came back the following day to win 10-8 in the finale of that two-game set.
“Even though they beat us today, I think everybody in here knows that we can compete with these guys and match up,” Philadelphia’s Pat Burrell said after that defeat.
While Milton came close on a no-hit bid, the Marlins were getting no-hit by Montreal’s Livan Hernandez before Mike Lowell doubled on the first pitch of the seventh inning. Florida went on to lose 6-4, suffering a three-game sweep to the last-place Expos and closing its 10-game road trip with a 3-7 mark.
“I feel like I’ve been away for a while,” Lowell said. “I’m looking forward to getting back and we have a big series right off the bat. If we win (Monday), hopefully we get back on track.”
Philadelphia is opening a 13-game trip, which includes three-game sets against the Cubs, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Following this series, the Phillies and Marlins do not meet again until Sept. 21. They also close the regular season with a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.