Yahoo! Sports: Phillies are Wild Card favorites
The Philadelphia Phillies have played well on the road all year. The way they perform on their final road trip will determine their postseason fate.
The Phillies begin a season-ending six-game trip Tuesday night at RFK Stadium, where they begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
Philadelphia (82-74) fell into a tie for the NL wild-card lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers after a 5-4 loss to Houston in a makeup game Monday. The Phillies had a five-game winning streak snapped and are looking to bounce back on a trip they hope will erase memories of recent failures.
“We got six games to play and it’s a tie,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We have to keep winning. We didn’t let anything slip away yet.”
Philadelphia may be tied for the wild card, but it’s in better shape than previous years when it entered the last six games in playoff contention.
In 2001, the Phillies were two games behind the Atlanta Braves, who maintained that margin to capture the NL East title. Two years later, they were one game behind Florida for the wild card. The Marlins swept a three-game series between the teams to clinch the playoff spot and went on to win the World Series.
Last year, Philadelphia began the season’s final six games trailing Houston by one game, and the Astros ended up eliminating the Phillies for the wild card on the last day of the season.
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard remains two homers shy of hitting 60. Howard is 10-for-25 with three homers and seven RBIs in six games at RFK Stadium this year.
“All I ever hear about is 60, 60, 60,” Howard said. “It’s kind of tough not to think about it when that’s what everybody always talks about every day. It would be a nice achievement, but you try not to think about it.”
Washington (69-87) and Philadelphia have split their first 16 meetings for the second straight year. The Phillies closed last year by sweeping three games at RFK to win the season series, falling one game short of the playoffs.
“Brett builds on confidence,” catcher Mike Lieberthal said. “There are times where he can get frustrated, and you have to calm him down, and he has to stay within himself when he gets in trouble. For him, when he’s pitching well, it seems like he keeps getting stronger.”
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 7.52 ERA in four starts against the Nationals this season and 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in four career outings at RFK Stadium.
Washington leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano, who’s 4-for-13 with six strikeouts lifetime against Myers, has homered six times against Philadelphia this year.
Ramon Ortiz (10-15, 5.40) will take the mound for the Nationals. Ortiz is Washington’s staff leader in victories with 10—his highest total in three years.
The veteran right-hander fell to 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA over his last three outings after surrendering five runs and eight hits over five innings in a 7-3 loss Wednesday to Atlanta. He allowed two homers for the third straight start.
“Every time I make a mistake—home run,” Ortiz said. “I don’t want to think about my last three games. I have to keep pitching well. I want to finish strong. I want to do the best I can my last three games.”
Ortiz is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in two starts against the Phillies this year.
Howard is 2-for-5 with a homer against Ortiz in his career.