Ryan Howard looks to keep boosting his National League MVP candidacy and help his Philadelphia Phillies continue their playoff push when they continue their four-game set with the Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium on Friday.
Philadelphia (71-69) defeated Florida 14-8 in Thursday’s series opener, and has won seven of 10 in the season series. The Phillies moved within 2 1/2 games of San Diego in the wild-card standings with the win, while the Marlins (70-70) dropped 3 1/2 games back of the Padres.
“We have to play some really good ball to make that up in such a short period of time,” said the Phillies’ Jeff Conine, who hit a three-run homer and tripled Thursday. “Every game from here on out—I wouldn’t say a must win, but we have to play well over .500 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.”
Philadelphia and Florida play each other nine more times in the final 22 games of the season.
“No one said it’s going to be easy,” Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. “We have to beat Philadelphia. We have nine more games with them. We have to take advantage of the situation.”
Howard hit his major league-leading 54th home run of the season on Thursday, and is batting .464 (13-for-28) with six homers and 12 RBIs in nine games against Florida this season.
The All-Star Home Run Derby winner also has 11 homers in his last 15 games, and is batting .442 (23-for-52) with 23 RBIs in that stretch. He needs six more home runs to achieve the ninth 60-homer season in major league history.
“It is an achievement, but you don’t want to get caught up in it,” Howard said of the 60-homer milestone. “When that becomes your No. 1 priority, you lose your plan.”
Jamie Moyer (1-1, 5.12 ERA) takes the mound on Friday against the Marlins, the only major league team he has not faced in his 20-year career.
The 43-year-old left-hander is coming off possibly the best of his three starts for Philadelphia since being acquired from Seattle on Aug. 19. He allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 8-7 victory over Atlanta in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, but did not factor in the decision.
Florida lost for just the second time in seven games with Thursday’s defeat, but has still won 10 of its last 12 at Dolphin Stadium. Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-5 with a homer and three runs, and is batting .351 (13-for-37) with 12 runs in 10 games against Philadelphia this season.
Rookie Scott Olsen (12-7 4.04 ERA) looks to win his fourth straight start when he takes the ball on Friday.
The 22-year-old left-hander is coming off one of the best starts of his brief career. Olsen threw seven shutout innings while giving up just one hit and striking out seven in a 10-3 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.
“I had my changeup going, I had my slider working,” said Olsen, who is two strikeouts shy of Dontrelle Willis’ franchise rookie record of 142. “If I was behind in the count, they couldn’t sit dead-red fastball. So, they only got one hit.”
Olsen has allowed just three earned runs in 21 innings to win his last three outings. He is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in three starts against the Phillies.