Following a key series win that moved them into second place in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies try to avoid a letdown when they hit the road for a six-game trip against two of the league’s worst teams, starting Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.
The Phillies (62-55) defeated Atlanta 5-3 on Sunday, taking two of three from the Braves to move past them in the division. Philadelphia is three games back of the first-place New York Mets and one behind San Diego for the wild card.
“We believe in our abilities,” Sunday’s winning pitcher Jamie Moyer said. “Everybody is contributing and that’s important. When you’re in a playoff race, it takes all 25 guys.”
The Phillies look to continue their playoff push on this trip with a three-game set against the Nationals (54-64), last in the NL East, followed by Pittsburgh, another of the weakest clubs in the NL.
Philadelphia has won five of eight over Washington this season, splitting the two games at RFK Stadium.
Ryan Howard hit a three-run homer Sunday, his 33rd. Howard is batting .179 (5-for-28) against Washington this season, but three of those hits have been homers. He has 13 career home runs against the Nationals, tied for his most against any opponent (Braves).
All-Star center fielder Aaron Rowand has also enjoyed playing against the Washington franchise in his career, batting .380 (38-for-100) with five home runs, 13 doubles and 11 RBIs in 25 games.
Rowand is 13-for-35 (.371) with four homers, six doubles, six RBIs and eight runs in eight games against the Nationals this season, and 1-for-6 with a solo home run off Tuesday’s starter Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.70 ERA), who’s expected to be activated from the disabled list to make his first start in more than three months.
Hill was placed on the DL on May 14 with a sore right elbow and left shoulder strain after leaving a no-hit bid after the fifth inning of a 6-0 win over Florida on May 11. Before the injury, Hill had been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals, allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts.
The right-hander allowed one run and four hits in five innings Thursday in a start for Triple-A Columbus. He was originally scheduled to make a second rehab start, but another poor outing by left-hander Matt Chico on Friday prompted general manger Jim Bowden to make a move to fortify his rotation.
“We have a responsibility to put our best team out there and our best team has Shawn Hill on the mound on Tuesday. I think we owe it to those teams in a pennant race,” Bowden told the team’s official Web site.
Hill had one of his best outings of the season against Philadelphia, allowing two runs and four hits in a season-high eight innings of a 4-2 win April 26. He’s 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.
Philadelphia counters with Kyle Lohse (7-12, 4.66), who looks to build on his first victory with his new club. Lohse, acquired from Cincinnati before the trade deadline, gave up four runs and six hits - two home runs - in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-4 win over Florida on Wednesday.
The right-hander was knocked around in his only start against the Nationals this season, giving up seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 12-7 loss for the Reds on May 23. In two career starts against the Washington franchise, Lohse is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA.
The Nats rallied from a five-run deficit to beat NL West-leading Arizona 7-6 on Sunday. Felipe Lopez, who drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, is batting .409 (9-for-22) with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last six games.