The only good news for the Philadelphia Phillies during this dismal series is that the team ahead of them in the division has had an equally miserable week.
The struggling Phillies hope to get their bats untracked and avoid a four-game home sweep by the Houston Astros on Thursday.
Philadelphia (70-56) has scored two runs in each loss in this series, hitting .218 and totaling 29 strikeouts. The Phillies fell 3-2 on Wednesday, with former Phillie J.A. Happ(notes) outpitching Roy Halladay(notes).
“Same story, we came up short,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “If we’re going to score one or two runs, we’re going to get beat.”
The Phillies, though, have remained 2 1/2 games behind NL East leader Atlanta, which was swept in a three-game series at Colorado.
“You hate to focus on what other teams are doing, but we’d like to be playing better,” Halladay said. “Given what they’ve done, we could’ve made up some ground.”
Philadelphia remained tied for the wild-card lead with San Francisco, with St. Louis one game back.
Howard singled as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, but has gone 3 for 33 with one RBI over his last nine games. He went 0 for 7 with five strikeouts and was ejected in a 4-2, 16-inning loss Tuesday.
Houston (57-69) is trying for its first four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park. The Astros’ 15-7 record there is the best of any NL club.
Houston’s last four-game sweep in Philadelphia was from Sept. 6-9, 1999, at Veterans Stadium.
The right-hander has lost his last two home starts, allowing five runs over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-1 loss to Washington on Saturday. He exited to a chorus of boos, falling to 3-4 with a 5.46 ERA in 12 starts in Philadelphia.
The Astros will try for their fifth straight win behind Wandy Rodriguez(notes) (9-12, 4.00), the last Houston pitcher to lose after yielding three runs and striking out 10 over six innings of a 6-3 defeat at Florida on Saturday.
The left-hander has gone 0-1 with a 1.71 ERA in his last four starts, during which he received eight runs of support.
Rodriguez is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts versus Philadelphia. Rollins has the most experience against him among the Phillies, going 4 for 9.