Losing three games in a row has kept the Philadelphia Phillies from gaining the best record in the NL. They might prefer to gain a little momentum heading into the playoffs, and having J.A. Happ(notes) on the mound might help.
Happ will try to win a third consecutive start when the Phillies conclude the regular season against the Florida Marlins on Sunday.
The Phillies (92-69) have lost three in a row since clinching their third consecutive East title with Wednesday’s 10-3 win over Houston. The slide has prevented them from being able to secure the best record in the league and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Philadelphia hasn’t looked very good at home lately, losing 4-3 to Florida (87-74) on Saturday following a 7-2 defeat in Friday night’s opener of this season-ending three-game set. However, St. Louis’ 5-4 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday gave the Phillies home field in their division series.
The Phillies went 7-0 at home last postseason en route to their first World Series title since 1980.
“That was big, that’s very important for us,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said of gaining home field. “I think we’re definitely ready.”
Happ (12-4, 2.85 ERA) will try to create some momentum heading into the postseason, while also becoming the first rookie since Ray Semproch in 1958 to win 13 games for the Phillies.
The left-hander is looking to make one last case for the Rookie of the Year Award, as he seeks to join Ryan Howard(notes) (2005), Scott Rolen(notes) (1997), Dick Allen (1964) and Jack Sanford (1957) as Phillies to win it.
Happ is 2-0 with a 3.77 ERA in three starts since returning from a strained right oblique.
He labored through 5 2-3 innings in Tuesday’s 7-4 win over the Astros, throwing 119 pitches while allowing four runs and nine hits.
“I felt a lot better than the results,” Happ said. “It was a battle all night.”
Happ won his only career start against the Marlins on July 19, allowing five hits in seven innings of a 5-0 road win.
The Phillies, though, have dropped four in a row to Florida, which has gained a 9-8 edge in the season series.
The Marlins, who will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight time since winning the 2003 World Series, are trying to finish the season on their first five-game winning streak since Aug. 7-11.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in four games - three starts - at Citizens Bank Park. His most recent win there came Aug. 9, when he yielded one run and four hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 12-3 victory.
Johnson is coming off a strong performance Tuesday, though he didn’t get a decision in a 5-4 win at Atlanta. He limited the Braves to one run and three hits in five innings.
“Early on, I had command of all my pitches,” Johnson said. “I was a little winded early.”