The Philadelphia Phillies have climbed back into the postseason race behind their surging offense.
The Phillies (61-62) now look to climb back to .500 for the first time in two months when they open their 10-game road trip with a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs (53-70) at Wrigley Field on Monday.
Philadelphia was 7 1/2 games back in the NL wild-card race on July 28, but has since gone 15-8, the third-best record in the league. The Phillies have averaged 7.17 runs in those games, scoring in double digits seven times.
Philadelphia defeated Washington 12-10 on Sunday, and trails Cincinnati by 2 1/2 games in the wild-card race.
“We’re scoring some runs and playing good baseball, we have to carry the momentum over to the road trip,” said Aaron Rowand, who went 4-for-5 with three runs on Sunday. “There are no unimportant games left in the season.”
The Phillies have not been at .500 since being 35-35 on June 19, and this is only the third time they’ve had a chance to get back to the break-even mark since.
“I’ve felt that if we get to .500, I think we’d take off a little bit,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “If we continue to play the way we are, we will take off and make a run (at the postseason).”
Ryan Howard leads the NL with 43 homers, and is batting .367 (22-for-60) with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 15 road games since the All-Star break.
Jon Lieber (5-9, 5.10 ERA) looks for another strong performance when he takes the mound for Philadelphia on Monday. He allowed five hits while striking out four and walking none in nine innings of a 3-0 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday, his first shutout in more than five years.
“Nothing different from my last few starts,” said the right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA in his last three starts, striking out 17 and walking two in 24 innings.
Lieber, who pitched for the Cubs from 1999-2002, is 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 13 games against his former team. The 12-year veteran is 28-18 with a 3.62 ERA in 69 appearances at Wrigley Field.
Chicago counters with Rich Hill (3-5, 6.90), who is coming off one of the more memorable victories of his brief career.
Hill was scheduled to start last Wednesday, but threw the final two innings and got the win in Tuesday’s 8-6, 18-inning victory over Houston.
“It was a great team win. Everybody played, and we got the win,” said Hill, who is 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four games this month.
The left-hander is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in four starts at Wrigley this season, compared to a 1-4 mark and 10.02 ERA in five games on the road.
Hill has never faced the Phillies.
The Cubs lost 5-3 to St. Louis on Sunday, but have won five of their last seven games. Their 10-8 record in August is the fourth-best in the NL.
“We signed up for 162 (games) and I think there’s a lot we can still get out of ourselves as players,” said Matt Murton, who is batting .373 (19-for-51) with four homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games this month.
Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre went 3-for-4 with a triple on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games. He is hitting .386 (22-for-57) with three doubles and three triples during that span.