The Philadelphia Phillies are looking to beat up on an AL Central foe for the second straight series, though the one they host this weekend appears to be much more formidable.
Detroit (37-28) follows a division rival into Citizens Bank Park after the Chicago White Sox lost all three games to the Phillies, getting outscored 18-7. This series could present Philadelphia with a greater challenge considering the White Sox have been the AL Central’s worst team lately, losing 15 of 18, while the Tigers have been its best with wins in seven of 10.
The Phillies (35-31) have won nine of 12 to move a season-best four games above .500 and within two games of the struggling New York Mets for the NL East lead. They were 8 1/2 back as recently as June 1.
A three-game sweep of the Mets last week seemed to assure Philadelphia was on track following a disappointing start. Instead, the Phillies went on to lose two of three at Kansas City, the AL Central’s last-place team.
Though Philadelphia bounced back to sweep Chicago, that was against a team with the lowest batting average in baseball (.232). The Phillies now face a Detroit club which leads the majors at .292.
They must also go against Bonderman (6-0, 3.63 ERA), who’s won six straight starts. He’s 10-0 in 18 outings, including 1-0 in three playoff starts, since losing at Minnesota on Sept. 10.
His run of nine straight regular season victories is the longest by a Detroit starter since David Wells won 10 decisions in a row in 1995.
Bonderman did not pitch well in his most recent outing, however, allowing six runs and eight hits in six innings of an 8-7 home win over the Mets on Saturday. It was the first time in four starts he gave up more than two runs or four hits, though he did not walk a batter.
The right-hander has walked four and struck out 34 in 34 innings on the road.
“I’m not going to walk anybody,” Bonderman told the Tigers’ official Web site. “I’m going to try to make them hit the ball, put the ball in play and get yourself out.”
Bonderman beat the Phillies the only time he faced them, allowing one hit and one run in seven innings of a 10-3 win on June 15, 2004.
He’ll be opposed by Jon Lieber (3-4, 3.72), who’s coming off his best performance of the season with a three-hitter in a 3-0 win at Kansas City on Saturday. The 37-year-old right-hander had no walks and struck out 11, one shy of his career high.
Lieber lost his previous two starts, giving up 10 runs and 23 hits in 11 2-3 innings.
“If you look at the last couple of games, the numbers probably look like I basically pitched like junk, but I felt (Saturday) the way I felt in those games,” Lieber said. “I didn’t feel any different. … Results can be deceiving.”
Opponents are hitting .317 against Lieber at home, compared to .217 on the road.
Lieber is 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in five starts against the Tigers, though he last faced them in 2004 while with the New York Yankees.
The Tigers, who won two of three games in 2004 in their only series at Philadelphia, have not lost an interleague series since the start of last season, going 22-5 overall.
The No. 3 and 4 hitters have led the recent surges for both teams.