The Philadelphia Phillies have dominated their division opponents lately. Looking to build more momentum heading into their most important series of the year, the NL East leaders hope that trend continues.
Philadelphia tries to extend its winning streak to seven Sunday when it concludes a series against the visiting Washington Nationals.
Seeking a fourth consecutive division title, Philadelphia (88-61) has won 20 of 25 against East foes since July 31. During that stretch, the Phillies have erased a 3 1/2-game deficit and opened a three-game lead over Atlanta.
With a crucial three-game series against the Braves beginning Monday at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia looks to close out the Nationals (62-86) with Joe Blanton(notes) (7-6, 5.00 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, and has his lowest ERA since May 8 after going 6-1 with a 4.01 ERA in his last 17 outings.
Blanton has also benefited from the league’s second-highest run support at 5.99.
“(The run support) gives you a lot of wiggle room,” he told the Phillies’ official website after striking out eight and throwing six innings of one-run ball in Monday’s 11-4 victory at Florida. “It gives you an opportunity to be really, really aggressive out there.”
The Phillies are batting .325 and averaging 6.9 runs while winning 10 of 11.
“We’re focused on what we have to do,” said Ryan Howard(notes), whose two-run shot in Saturday’s 5-2 victory set a franchise mark with five straight seasons with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs. “The only thing you can handle is how we play.”
The 29-year-old Cuban defector makes his third major league start after yielding four runs and five hits in each of his first two appearances for Washington. Maya will try to avoid the big inning after giving up three first-inning runs in his debut against the New York Mets on Sept. 7, and yielding four in the second inning of Monday’s 4-0 loss at Atlanta.
Zimmerman, who is batting .386 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 12 games in Philadelphia this season, is 8 for 21 with two homers against Blanton.