Philadelphia (73-61) at Chicago (84-50)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 89° F
  • Game info: 2:20 pm EDT Fri Aug 29, 2008
  • TV: CSN, CSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

In July, the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies each acquired an Oakland starting pitcher to try and help them take control of their respective divisions.

It’s worked out much better for the Cubs.

Chicago, a winner of six straight, sends Rich Harden to the mound to match up with former teammate Joe Blanton when it continues a four-game series with the struggling Phillies on Friday.

The Cubs (84-50) had a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central after games on July 8, the day it acquired Harden (4-1, 1.47 ERA) in a trade with Oakland. Now, Chicago holds both the majors’ best record and a 6 1/2-game division lead over Milwaukee.

Harden has solidified Chicago’s rotation, with the Cubs winning each of his last five starts. He has won three straight outings, allowing one run and striking out 23 in 19 innings over that span while holding opponents to a .097 batting average.

The right-hander gave up one run and two hits while striking out 11 in seven innings as Chicago beat Washington 6-1 on Sunday.

Harden was also outstanding against the Phillies (73-61) on June 26, when he was still pitching for Oakland. He limited Philadelphia to two hits and struck out 11 in eight innings as the A’s won 5-0.

Harden chatted with ex-A’s teammate Blanton (1-0, 4.03 ERA) before this series’ opener, a 6-4 Cubs victory Thursday night that gave Chicago its longest winning streak since a nine-game run May 26-June 3.

Blanton and his new team are in a much more uncertain position. With Thursday’s loss, the Phillies dropped a full game behind the idle New York Mets in the NL East.

“We shouldn’t be going through this,” Philadelphia reliever Ryan Madson said. “This is our time to hold these leads and it’s our job. We’re not getting it done right now.”

The Phillies could use a boost from Blanton, who has been inconsistent since arriving from Oakland in a July 17 trade. He has given up four runs or more in three of his seven starts with his new club.

The right-hander, though, is coming off one of his best starts since joining Philadelphia. He yielded one run and six hits in six innings as the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 on Sunday night.

This will be Blanton’s first appearance against the Cubs, who are averaging 8.2 runs during their winning streak.

Aramis Ramirez has been a big part of Chicago’s surge, hitting four home runs and driving in 15 runs in the six games.

Ramirez hit a grand slam Thursday as part of Chicago’s five-run eighth inning rally. The third baseman needs one RBI to reach 100 for the sixth time in his career.

“I mean I’ve been able to do that since I was in the minor leagues,” Ramirez said. “I’ve always been able to drive in runs, it’s something I’m proud of.”

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Starting Pitchers

J. Blanton LAA vs. R. Harden Oak
9-12 Record 10-2
4.69 ERA 2.07
111 K 181
66 BB 61
1.40 WHIP 1.06

Scoreboard

Friday, Aug 29