Philadelphia looks to strengthen its grip on first place when it concludes a three-game series against the Florida Marlins on Sunday at Dolphin Stadium.
A 14-8 loss in Friday’s series opener snapped the Phillies’ seven-game winning streak, and knocked them from first place in the East. It didn’t take long for Philadelphia to reclaim the top spot as it escaped threats in the final three innings before holding on for a 3-2 victory on Saturday.
“We sweated every bit of it out,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “It seemed like a long mental test.”
With their eighth win in nine games, the Phillies (87-68) moved one-half game ahead of the Mets, who lost 4-2 in Atlanta. Philadelphia also ended Florida’s nine-game win streak and dealt a blow to the Marlins’ (81-73) slim playoff hopes.
“There’s no reason to hang our heads. We still have a chance,” outfielder Cody Ross said.
Last season, the Phillies went 13-4 down the stretch, and won the East on the final day of the regular season while the Mets lost 12 of 17 as part of a historic collapse. New York is struggling again this September, losing five of its last nine games while Philadelphia has erased a 3 1/2-game deficit in the division.
Without injured closer Billy Wagner, the Mets have had difficulty finishing games. Philadelphia’s Brad Lidge, meanwhile, has been the league’s best closer, converting 39 saves in as many chances. Lidge stranded a runner at second in the ninth on Saturday, striking out the side as Florida finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“The bullpen as a whole was outstanding,” Lidge said. “I’m a little biased, but I think that’s what won the game tonight.”
Although he wasn’t sharp in his last start, there’s probably no pitcher the Phillies would rather have on the mound Sunday than Jamie Moyer (14-7, 3.86 ERA), who is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five career road starts against the Marlins.
He is 10-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 11 career starts versus Florida, going 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four outings this season.
The left-hander is 4-0 with a 4.08 ERA in eight starts since losing at home to the Marlins on Aug. 5. A win Sunday would give the 45-year-old his most victories since he won a career-high 21 games for Seattle in 2003.
Moyer was charged with six runs, six hits and four walks over 5 2-3 innings in the Phillies’ 8-7 win over Atlanta on Tuesday.
Florida will be without All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for a fourth straight game due to a strained left shoulder. Ramirez, tied for the team lead with 32 homers, isn’t expected to return until Monday at the earliest.
Chris Volstad (5-3, 3.07) looks to continue his impressive rookie season for Florida. The right-hander, who turns 22 on Tuesday, has been a solid addition since joining the rotation on July 6. He had the second-longest outing of his season Tuesday in a 5-1 victory over Houston, allowing one run and four hits in eight innings while striking out four and walking none.
Volstad faced the Phillies in his previous start, but departed with a bruised right leg after giving up one run in three innings.