After managing to hang on to their slim lead in the NL wild-card standings in their last outing, the Cincinnati Reds look to create some more distance between themselves and the rest of the league’s playoff hopefuls when they wrap up a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Reds (60-57) beat the Phillies 9-7 on Saturday, maintaining their half-game lead over both Arizona and San Diego in the wild-card race. The Diamondbacks beat Florida 6-3, while the Padres defeated Houston by the same score.
Brandon Phillips homered Saturday for Cincinnati, which is 2 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central despite dropping nine of its last 14 games. Chris Michalak, called up from Triple-A Louisville before the game, pitched 6 2-3 strong innings of relief in place of starter Elizardo Ramirez, who lasted 1 1-3 innings after picking up the loss in relief on Friday.
“It was awesome to be in a playoff atmosphere,” said Michalak, who earned his first win in the major leagues since 2001. “It makes all the years in the minors and all the hard work worthwhile.”
Jimmy Rollins hit two homers, and David Dellucci and Ryan Howard also connected for the Phillies (56-59), who lost for the fourth time in seven games. Rollins also homered Friday for Philadelphia, which is three games behind Cincinnati in the wild-card standings.
The Phillies failed to get within a game of .500 for the first time since June 20. Howard, who leads the NL with 40 homers, became the sixth player in team history to hit that many in a season.
Brett Myers (8-5, 3.95 ERA) will look to help the Phillies bounce back in the finale. He allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings of Monday’s 9-6 win at Atlanta, and has won his last two starts despite allowing a total of 10 runs in 11 innings.
Myers lost his previous two starts, allowing four runs in 16 innings over that span.
“That’s why I hate this game,” he said. “It’s crazy. I’ll take it though.”
Monday’s outing was Myers’ shortest in five starts since returning from the inactive list following charges that he struck his wife in the face in Boston.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four career starts against the Reds. He allowed one run in seven innings in Philadelphia’s 2-1, 12-inning win over Cincinnati on May 14.
The Reds will counter with Eric Milton (8-7, 5.01), who allowed one earned run in six innings of Tuesday’s 10-3 win over the Cardinals. He has allowed seven runs in 20 innings in his last three starts, going 2-1 over that span.
Milton pitched for Philadelphia in 2004, going 14-6 with a 4.75 ERA before signing with the Reds as a free agent. He is one of four Cincinnati pitchers who has played for Philadelphia, along with Ramirez and relievers Rheal Cormier and Ryan Franklin, both of whom have come to the Reds in the last two weeks.
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 7.15 ERA in two starts against his former team, both of which came last season.
Milton faced Myers in the first of those outings on May 13, 2005, giving up eight runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 12-2 loss. Myers allowed two runs in seven innings and earned the win in that contest.