The Philadelphia Phillies are hoping their latest surge can help catapult them into the postseason. They go for a four-game sweep when they wrap up their series with the Chicago Cubs Thursday at Wrigley Field.
The Phillies (64-62) beat the Cubs 2-1 on Wednesday for their fifth straight victory, their longest winning streak since a nine-game run from April 30-May 9. Philadelphia moved to within 1 1/2 games of NL wild card leader Cincinnati, which lost 7-3 to Houston.
“Right now it’s been fun,” said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who led of the sixth inning with a homer. “We’ve been playing some good ball. We know what’s at stake.”
Howard’s homer—his 44th of the season—ended a 1-for-11 overall slide and a 4-for-29 career slump against the Cubs. The hit was just his second in 19 career at-bats at Wrigley.
Jimmy Rollins doubled in the winning run in the top of the ninth inning for the Phillies, who had averaged 8.8 runs in the first four games of their winning streak.
“Tonight we were able to pull one out,” Rollins said. “That’s playing winning baseball, doing what we can to win. No one trying to be the hero, just doing what they can.”
Matt Murton hit a game-tying homer in the eighth for the Cubs, who have dropped four straight and are 1-5 on their current seven-game homestand.
Catcher Michael Barrett, who had been out with a sore triceps, made his first start since Aug. 18.
“I knew that my fastball was running good early in the game, but I didn’t have the command until the third inning,” said Zambrano, who leads the NL with 173 strikeouts and the majors with 98 walks.
Zambrano is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last four starts after earning a personal six-game winning streak at midseason. A victory would make the right-hander one of the NL’s first 14-game winners.
Zambrano is 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies.
Philadelphia will counter with Cole Hamels (6-6, 4.40), who won his second straight start on Saturday, allowing two runs on two homers and striking out seven in six innings of an 11-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. The rookie left-hander, who improved to 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts this month, was coming off perhaps the best start of his young career, a 13-0 win over the New York Mets on Aug. 14 in which he threw eight strong innings.
“I’m more comfortable every time I go out there,” said Hamels, who has struck out at least six batters in eight consecutive starts while walking a total of just 11. “It’s getting easier for me.”
Philadelphia has given Hamels 52 runs of support in his six wins.
“It definitely gives you more confidence going back on the mound,” said Hamels, who is making his first start against the Cubs.