Just last week, the Philadelphia Phillies were swept in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium that knocked them out of sole possession of first place in the NL East. The Phillies are looking for some payback, and Friday’s series-opening victory was a step in the right direction.
Philadelphia tries to build off its highest scoring game this month when it continues a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
The Phillies (69-59) arrived in Los Angeles (65-63) on Aug. 11 with a two-game lead over the second-place New York Mets, but after losing four straight, Philadelphia left Chavez Ravine tied for the division lead.
The Phillies have won five of seven since then, but are still 2 1/2 games back of the red-hot Mets. Philadelphia is also 4 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Milwaukee.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, has dropped four of six after winning seven of nine to remain two games behind NL West-leading Arizona.
In Friday’s series opener, Philadelphia hit three home runs en route to an 8-1 victory. It was the highest scoring game for the Phillies, who came in averaging 3.5 runs in their previous 15 contests, since an 8-4 win over Washington on July 31.
Slugger Ryan Howard appeared to regain his stroke, as he hit his 34th home run and did not strike out after going 3-for-35 (.086) with a homer and 18 strikeouts in his previous 10 games.
Three-time All-Star Chase Utley added his 31st home run after going without one in his previous eight games.
Dodgers cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez, meanwhile, has cooled off since getting off to a torrid start with his new team. Ramirez is 3-for-12 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs in his last four games after batting .424 (25-for-59) with six home runs and 21 RBIs in his first 16 games with Los Angeles.
James Loney had three of the Dodgers’ five hits Friday, and is batting .444 (12-for-27) with a homer and six RBIs in seven career games at Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (10-8, 3.22 ERA) seeks his first home victory since June 16 after going 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA in his last five starts there when he takes the ball Saturday.
Hamels ended a career-high seven-start winless drought Sunday, as he gave up one run and seven hits in eight innings of a 2-1 victory at San Diego.
“I think when you really try to be extra fine, you get yourself in trouble,” he said. “That’s when you put too much pressure on yourself. That’s something that I learned over the past month.”
Although Sunday was Hamels’ first victory since July 3, the left-hander pitched well during his winless drought, going 0-3 with a 3.60 ERA. He was solid in his only career start against the Dodgers on Aug 12, yielding two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 4-3 loss, but did not factor in the decision.
Los Angeles counters with rookie Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 3.59), who opposed Hamels last week.
After being tagged for five runs in three innings of a loss at Colorado on July 22, Kershaw has allowed five runs in 31 innings in going 2-0 over his last five starts. On Aug. 12, the 20-year-old left-hander gave up three runs and six hits with a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings, but did not receive a decision in his team’s 4-3 victory over the Phillies.
Kershaw allowed one run and eight hits in six innings of Sunday’s 7-5 win over Milwaukee, but again left without a win.
The Dodgers, losers of seven of their last nine road games, opened a stretch Friday that has them playing 23 of their final 35 games away from home.