Trying to hold on to their slim lead in the NL East, the Phillies look to snap their longest losing streak in two years as they open a three-game interleague set with the pitching-rich Athletics on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia (42-35) has lost five straight, and its lead over Florida in the NL East is down to one game. This is the Phillies’ longest skid since a seven-game losing streak in June 2006, and all of their losses have been against AL teams.
A powerful lineup has helped put Philadelphia in position for a chance to repeat as division champions, ranking second in the majors in home runs (104) and third in runs (398). But the Phillies’ problems at the plate are largely to blame for their current struggles.
Philadelphia is batting .166 and averaging 1.8 runs during its losing streak, a stark contrast for a team that scored 20 runs in a win over St. Louis on June 13. On Sunday, the Phillies were held to just six hits in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“We’re a team of fighters,” Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels said. “We’ve been that way for the last two years and it’s something to tap into now when we’re struggling a little bit.”
Now, the Phillies are facing one of the majors’ top pitching staffs. Oakland (41-34) leads the majors with a 3.43 ERA, a .239 opponent batting average and 53 home runs allowed.
The A’s won two of three games against Florida and its potent lineup over the weekend, winning the finale 7-1 on Sunday.
Philadelphia, though, will begin this series against Oakland’s least-effective starter, Joe Blanton (3-10, 4.81 ERA). He has lost four straight starts, posting a 7.94 ERA.
The right-hander allowed eight runs and seven hits while lasting only three innings in Oakland’s 11-1 loss to Arizona on Wednesday night. It was Blanton’s shortest outing since May 25, 2005, when he retired just one batter against Tampa Bay.
Blanton, however, is 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in six career interleague starts at home, and 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 13 outings overall.
Blanton won his only career start against Philadelphia, giving up two runs and five hits while striking out seven in 7 2-3 innings as Oakland won 5-2 on June 19, 2005.
The Phillies will counter with Jamie Moyer (7-4, 4.09 ERA), who is 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his last three starts.
The left-hander was a hard-luck loser in his last outing, giving up two runs and four hits in five innings as Philadelphia lost 3-0 to Boston on Tuesday night. He won his previous five decisions, and hadn’t lost since May 10.
Moyer is 2-3 with a 7.01 ERA in his last five interleague starts. He is 17-15 with a 4.46 ERA in 43 starts and four relief appearances against Oakland.
Philadelphia and Oakland have split six games, but haven’t met since June 2005.