Less than two months ago, the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t appear to be a factor in the NL East race. Now, they’re on the brink of taking sole possession of first place.
Another offensive burst may put the Phillies alone atop the division for the first time in over three months when they face the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia (79-60) has won consecutive NL pennants, and adding a third appeared unlikely as late as July 21 with the club third in the division, seven games behind first-place Atlanta.
The Phillies haven’t been alone atop the division since May 30, but winning 31 of 45 has them within one-half game of the Braves.
The offense has played a vital role in Philadelphia’s surge, averaging 5.6 runs during those victories compared to scoring 2.0 runs per game in the defeats.
Those trends were evident in a doubleheader split with the Marlins (70-67) in the start of this four-game series Monday. The Phillies were held to three hits in a 7-1 loss before collecting 10 in a 7-4 victory in the second game.
“It’s just been the inconsistency of our offense,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Placido Polanco’s(notes) contributions have been significant over the last 45 games. The third baseman is batting .343 with 15 RBIs in the victories over that stretch, while posting a .157 average with two RBIs in the losses.
Polanco had a double and a triple while driving in two runs in Monday’s win after going 0 for 3 in the first game.
The right-hander was pounded for six runs and 10 hits, including a season high-tying three homers, in 4 1-3 innings of a 12-11 win at Colorado on Thursday. He had been 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA over his seven previous starts, giving up two earned runs or fewer in five of them.
Blanton is 4-2 with a 3.44 ERA in six starts against the Marlins, but hasn’t faced them since allowing five runs in six innings of a 7-2 home loss Oct. 2.
Unlike the Phillies, the Marlins’ playoff hopes are dimming after splitting their last 10 games.
The right-hander threw the first pitch of the sixth inning behind the Nationals’ Nyjer Morgan(notes), who charged the mound before the melee escalated and resulted in four ejections. Volstad left after surrendering six runs and nine hits in five innings while also hitting three batters, including Morgan in the fourth.
Volstad, who is 5-1 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts, is appealing his six-game suspension and $4,000 fine.
He’s seen his last four starts against the Phillies result in losses for the Marlins, while he’s gone 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA.
Hanley Ramirez(notes) is on a 14-game hitting streak, during which he’s batting .471 with five homers, 14 RBIs and seven steals. It’s the All-Star shortstop’s longest run since a career-high 16-game streak Aug. 5-21, 2009.
Ramirez is 3 for 10 against Blanton, and has a career .329 average at Philadelphia.