Two second-place teams looking to reach the top spot in their respective divisions square off when the Philadelphia Phillies continue their four-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.
The Phillies (56-49) have won nine of 10 games, including four in a row, to pull within three games of the NL East-leading New York Mets. The Cubs, meanwhile, have used baseball’s best record since June 22 (23-10) to move within one game of first place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Philadelphia, which has outscored opponents 27-8 on its winning streak, continued its surge with a 4-1 victory in Monday’s series opener. The streak is one win shy of the longest run of the season for the Phillies, who have won five straight on two occasions.
Center fielder Aaron Rowand hit a three-run home run in the third inning, his fourth in 16 games since the All-Star break. Rowand is batting .418 with 17 RBIs in the second half.
While the Phillies have been playing well lately, they’ve also been playing shorthanded. They went through three right fielders Monday as Shane Victorino left in the fourth inning with a right calf strain, and replacement Michael Bourn exited in the seventh after an ugly fall on the Phillies’ bullpen mound. Greg Dobbs finished the game in right.
The Phillies, who are already missing All-Star second baseman Chase Utley (hand) for at least three more weeks, will examine Victorino and Bourn again on Tuesday.
“You ask yourself, ‘When is it going to end?’” said Rowand, who missed a game on Friday with a shoulder injury. “We just have to keep our fingers crossed and pray that neither of them are out for an extended period of time. That puts a serious dent in what we’re trying to accomplish when you lose two guys like that.”
The Cubs (55-49) were held to three hits - their fewest since totaling two in a 1-0 loss to San Diego on June 16 - to lose for the fifth time in nine games. They missed a chance to tie for the division lead with Milwaukee, which was idle on Monday.
“It’s still early,” said Ryan Theriot, whose solo shot in the sixth accounted for Chicago’s only run. “We have a lot of games left. It doesn’t matter who is in first place right now.”
Jason Marquis (7-6, 4.20 ERA) will start Tuesday for the Cubs, who have won nine of the right-hander’s 11 games at Wrigley Field. Marquis, who is 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA at home, is coming off a tough road start on Thursday in which he was reached for six runs in five innings in a 11-1 loss St. Louis.
Marquis is 3-3 with a 4.65 ERA in 16 career games, including nine starts, against the Phillies. He split two starts with a 4.76 ERA against them last year, when he pitched for St. Louis.
Left fielder Pat Burrell, who is batting .431 in July to raise his season average from .203 to .256, is 8-for-25 (.320) with seven walks in his career against Marquis.
Marquis will face Philadelphia’s Adam Eaton (9-6, 5.83), who has won his last three starts against the Cubs. The right-hander has a 3.00 ERA against them in those games, and is 5-2 with a 4.31 ERA against them overall in his career.
On Thursday, Eaton didn’t get a decision after allowing four runs in 6 1-3 innings of Philadelphia’s 7-6 loss to Washington.