Philadelphia will try to eliminate a two-game deficit when it meets Milwaukee for the final time in the regular season.
While a sweep would move the Phillies into a tie for the wild card, they’d still be in second place in the NL East. The Phillies begin play 2 1/2 games behind the Mets after New York split its doubleheader with Atlanta on Saturday.
After Philadelphia won Thursday and rain postponed Friday’s contest, the Phillies (81-67) rolled to a 7-3 victory on Saturday behind Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. Hamels tossed 6 1-3 sharp innings, and the reigning NL MVP fell a triple short of the cycle.
“It’s all about the team and the win, especially now,” Hamels said.
Ryan Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, added a two-run single. He leads the majors with 43 homers and 129 RBIs, and is hitting .500 (3-for-6) with a home run and five RBIs in the series.
Milwaukee (83-65) has dropped nine of 12 as it tries to avoid a second straight late-season collapse under manager Ned Yost. Slugger Prince Fielder said there’s no pressure, though.
“Tomorrow is big. Nothing really matters except winning,” Fielder said. “This is the way I like it. There’s no pressure. Just go out there and play. This is when it’s fun.”
Milwaukee’s Dave Bush (9-10, 4.23 ERA) gets the start in the opener, and will try to reach double digits in wins for the third straight season. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in his last five road starts.
He failed to get a decision in his last start, giving up two runs and seven hits over eight innings of a 5-4 loss to Cincinnati on Monday.
Bush also didn’t factor in the decision during his only start against Philadelphia on April 23. He has no record and a 6.18 ERA in five career starts versus the Phillies, with Milwaukee going 4-1.
He will be opposed by Joe Blanton (2-0, 4.61), who will make his first career appearance against Milwaukee.
Acquired from Oakland on July 17, the right-hander has made it to the sixth inning only once in his last six starts. Blanton earned his first win in seven starts on Monday, giving up four runs and five hits with three walks over five innings in the Phillies’ 8-6 victory over Florida.
“It was kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde night, I guess you’d call it,” Blanton told the Phillies’ official Web site. “I knew I felt good, so I just tried to do too much with it. (I) started overthrowing a little bit and kind of lost it. It turned into guiding it a little bit. It took me a couple innings to kind of get in a groove.”
Jeff Suppan (10-8, 4.63) will start the second game for the Brewers, and look to continue a string of strong outings on the road while trying to halt a streak of futility against the Phillies.
The right-hander is 5-0 with a 3.64 ERA in his last seven starts away from home, and 7-5 with a 4.70 ERA overall. Suppan didn’t get a decision in his only start against the Phillies on April 24 and hasn’t beaten them since May 6, 2004, going 0-4 with a 5.68 ERA in six starts.
Like Bush, Suppan failed to get a decision in his last start. On Tuesday, he was tagged for four runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in Milwaukee’s 5-4 loss in 11 innings to the Reds.
After seeing his four-start winning streak come to an end his last time out, Brett Myers (9-11, 4.22) will try to bounce back for Philadelphia in the second game.
Myers’ streak included wins over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Mets - all playoff contenders - and reduced his ERA by more than one-half run to 4.19. Facing the Marlins on three days’ rest on Wednesday, though, the right-hander gave up four runs and eight hits over 7 1-3 innings en route to a 7-3 loss.
Having to go again on short rest didn’t seem to bother Myers.
“I’ll pitch (Thursday), I don’t care,” Myers joked after Wednesday’s start. “If it gets us to the playoffs, whatever it takes.”
Myers hasn’t faced the Brewers this season, and is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in seven games including three starts versus Milwaukee. He’s also converted one of two save chances.