To try to complete the sweep and essentially end the Braves’ NL East aspirations, Manuel now turns to his third ace.
Entering this series with a three-game lead over Atlanta (86-66), Manuel set his starting rotation so his top three pitchers would face the Braves. Cole Hamels(notes) set the tone, limiting Atlanta to one run in eight innings in a series-opening 3-1 victory on Monday, and Roy Halladay(notes) became the NL’s first 20-game winner the next night.
“It’s definitely special but the best part about it is it’s been secondary for me,” Halladay said. “Being able to get to the playoffs is the priority.”
With Tuesday’s 5-3 victory, the club’s season-best ninth in a row, Philadelphia (91-61) increased its lead in the East to five games and reduced its number to clinch a fourth straight division title to six.
“The past two games were a total team effort on both sides of the ball in clutch situations,” Werth said. “It’s the kind of ball we’re accustomed to.”
While Halladay will receive strong consideration for the NL Cy Young Award, Oswalt (13-13, 2.90 ERA) has been the league’s top pitcher over the past six weeks.
After allowing five runs to Washington in losing his Philadelphia debut July 30, Oswalt is 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his last nine starts with the Phillies winning each time. The right-hander’s ERA since the start of August leads the NL and his .187 opponents’ batting average ranks third-best in the majors.
“(Oswalt’s) been everything I expected him to be,” Manuel told the Phillies’ official website after the three-time All-Star allowed one run and six hits in six innings in Friday’s 9-1 win over the Nationals.
Oswalt will try to win five straight starts for the first time since July 20-Aug. 13, 2007, against the only NL team he hasn’t defeated - other than Houston.
The 10-year veteran is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves. He hasn’t faced them since yielding six runs in two innings in a 9-7 loss for the Astros last September.
Although Atlanta has dropped 13 games in the East standings since July 21, it can take solace in the fact that it’s still atop the wild-card standings.
Hanson gave up four runs and five hits in six innings in Friday’s 6-4 victory over the Mets, earning just his second win in 14 starts. The right-hander did a good job of settling down after yielding three runs in the second, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Hanson, who hasn’t won back-to-back starts since winning three in a row May 26-June 5, has been sharp in two starts against the Phillies this season, going 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA, but hasn’t faced them since the end of May.
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