The Philadelphia Phillies barely managed to pull out a series win over the worst team in the NL East. Now they hope to perform better versus the worst team in the league.
The Phillies look to start getting their offense back in gear Friday, opening a three-game set against a Pittsburgh Pirates club which has one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.
In the series opener, however, Philadelphia (64-56) must go against Pittsburgh’s best starter in Tom Gorzelanny (11-6, 3.29 ERA).
The Phillies didn’t have to face Gorzelanny in the only series between the clubs this season from July 27-29 and they swept the Pirates (50-69). Philadelphia totaled 23 runs and 31 hits in that three-game set, but has failed to score more than five runs or collect more than nine hits in seven consecutive games.
In three games against last-place Washington this week, the Phillies had a combined nine runs and 18 hits - only five for extra bases - while striking out 12 times in each contest.
“That is pretty good isn’t it?” manager Charlie Manuel said with sarcasm. “We can talk to them, but you have to be careful what you say. I don’t want them to be too tight. You have to stay positive and battle through it.”
The Phillies, who lead the NL with 649 runs scored, needed a three-run eighth inning to win 3-2 in the series opener versus the Nationals before losing 4-2 on Wednesday. The bullpen nearly blew a four-run lead Thursday, but left the bases loaded in the seventh inning and two runners on in the eighth as Philadelphia won 4-2.
That victory moved the Phillies back in front of Atlanta for second place in the division, three games behind the New York Mets.
“I think our objective the rest of the way is to win every series,” Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth said. “We didn’t play our best the last three games as far as offense goes. The pitching was there for all three games.”
The 3-4-5 hitters in Philadelphia’s lineup are all struggling. Pat Burrell has one hit in his last 13 at-bats, reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard is in a 3-for-22 slump (.136) and Aaron Rowand is 4-for-24 (.167) with one RBI in his last seven games.
Pittsburgh helped the Phillies’ cause on Thursday by rallying from five runs down to beat the Mets 10-7. The previous night, the Pirates scored four runs in the ninth before losing 10-8.
“There can be a carryover from something like that,” said Pittsburgh first baseman Adam LaRoche, who hit a two-run homer and went 3-for-5.
LaRoche is batting .368 (14-for-38) with three homers and nine RBIs in his last nine games for Pittsburgh, which still has the NL’s worst record because of its major league-worst 10-21 mark since the All-Star break.
Gorzelanny, though, has been a bright spot. He’ll look to win for the third time in as many starts following a 13-day layoff due to a sore shoulder.
The left-hander gave up two runs and four hits while striking out nine in seven innings to beat Arizona 8-3 on Aug. 7. Gorzelanny followed that with a five-hitter on Sunday for his first career complete game in a 5-0 win at San Francisco.
“I didn’t automatically think I was going to have a good day, but it does feel good, and it’s a long time coming,” he said.
Gorzelanny, who has never faced the Phillies, has lasted at least six innings in all 10 of his home starts this season and has given up three runs or fewer in eight of them.
Philadelphia turns to J.D. Durbin (4-2, 5.73) to fill in for Adam Eaton, who went on the disabled list Wednesday due to shoulder inflammation. Durbin has a 4.14 ERA in 10 games since joining the Phillies in late June.
The right-hander has thrown 4 2-3 scoreless innings in his last two relief appearances. He made three straight starts in June and won them all while posting a 2.70 ERA. However, his worst performance during that stretch, as well as his most recent start, came against Pittsburgh on July 28 as he gave up five runs and seven hits with four walks in five innings of a 10-5 win.