For one day, the Philadelphia Phillies owned a share of the NL wild-card lead. They’ll look to take over sole possession of it when they open a crucial three-game series with the Florida Marlins on Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies (79-73) moved into a tie with Los Angeles for the wild card for the first time this season with Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over Chicago. During their off day Thursday, however, they dropped a half-game back when the Dodgers beat Pittsburgh 5-2.
Philadelphia has won seven of nine and leads Florida by 3 1/2 games. The Phillies and Marlins wrap up the season with a three-game set in Miami.
“We’re playing a tough team coming up,” catcher Mike Lieberthal said. “Even though we’ve got a week and a half left and every game matters, it can go back and forth daily.”
The Phillies, 8-5 against Florida this season, have not reached the playoffs since 1993, when they lost to Toronto in the World Series.
“I think we’re going to win it,” manager Charlie Manuel said of the wild-card race. “I think we’ve got a good chance to win.”
“We’re in the position we’re in because of what he’s done,” manager Charlie Manuel said of Howard.
The Marlins (76-77) have won two in a row since a demoralizing four-game losing streak, beating the New York Mets 5-2 on Thursday. Miguel Cabrera, batting .338 with 25 homers and 110 RBIs, missed his second straight game with a strained left shoulder, but manager Joe Girardi said it was likely not a long-term problem.
“Two wins in a row was nice. But we need to beat Philly, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said.
Ricky Nolasco (11-9, 4.56 ERA), who allowed one run in six innings of the Marlins’ 10-inning, 8-7 loss in Atlanta on Sunday, will start the opener for Florida. The rookie right-hander, who has made 20 starts and 13 relief appearances, made his previous two outings out of the bullpen because of a sore right hamstring, but said he felt fine during the start.
Nolasco’s only start against Philadelphia came July 28, when he threw 7 1-3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win. He has also made two relief appearances against the Phillies, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning May 2 and throwing two hitless innings Sept. 9.
Philadelphia will counter with Cole Hamels (8-8, 4.21), who gave up two runs in 7 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 7-2 win at Houston. The rookie left-hander held the Astros hitless for 6 2-3 innings, struck out 11 and improved to 6-3 with a 2.67 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Hamels is 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season. He gave up two runs in four innings of a 3-0 loss at Florida on Sept. 10.