Dodgers-Phillies Preview

The Associated Press

It has been decades since there's been a club as hot as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

No team in baseball has been as bad as the Philadelphia Phillies over the last four weeks, and that slide cost manager Charlie Manuel his job.

Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg will make his major league managerial debut after the sudden firing of Manuel as the woeful Phillies face the red-hot Dodgers on Friday night.

With the team 20 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East, Philadelphia (53-67) let Manuel go Friday afternoon following a major league-worst 4-19 slump dating to July 20. The Phillies have hit .218 and compiled a 5.12 ERA in that span.

"I did not resign and I did not quit," Manuel said. "I think it was an agreement."

Manuel led the club to five straight division titles from 2007-11, won the World Series in 2008 and became the winningest manager in franchise history with a 780-636 record. He's been at the helm since 2005, but Philadelphia went .500 last year and is now on track to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2002.

"I didn't see any reason to have him go through the last 40 games knowing he wasn't going to be back," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "That wouldn't have been fair."

While Manuel considers an offer to remain with the organization, Sandberg immediately takes over in the dugout on an interim basis after serving as the Phillies' third-base coach. He had been considered the heir apparent to become manager after joining the club during the offseason.

Sandberg spent the previous six years coaching in the minors.

His first series running the Phillies won't be any easy one because it's against the hottest team in baseball.

NL West-leading Los Angeles (70-50) has gone a major league-best 40-8 since June 22, the franchise's best 48-game stretch in the modern era and the best in baseball since the 1942 Cardinals went 41-7 from Aug. 11-Oct. 1.

Yasiel Puig has played a huge role in that success, posting a major league-best .368 average with 11 homers, 27 RBIs and 47 runs since getting called up June 3. Adrian Gonzalez, meanwhile, is 8 for 16 with runners in scoring position this month.

"I can't explain what's happening here, but it's fun," manager Don Mattingly told MLB's official website. "Puig's been great, Adrian, too. It's been a team thing. There have been contributions from different guys in all different areas, all over the field, from the bench to the bullpen to the back end of the game to the middle of the game."

Puig and Gonzalez delivered back-to-back doubles in the 12th inning as Los Angeles came back to beat the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday. The Dodgers have outscored opponents 51-21 during an eight-game winning streak, their longest since a nine-game run May 9-18, 2010.

"It's on par for what's going on with this team," said Andre Ethier, who hit a pinch-hit game-tying two-run homer in the ninth. "It's not the same hero every night. It's someone different stepping up when they're name is called. It's a nice sign."

The Phillies return home after getting outscored 33-16 during a 1-5 road trip, capped by Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Atlanta.

Despite getting a six-hitter from Cole Hamels in Monday's 5-1 win at Turner Field, Philadelphia's starters recorded a 7.04 ERA during the team's trek.

"If our starting pitching gets going right, I think we're very capable of winning some games," Manuel said after Wednesday's loss.

Scheduled starter Cliff Lee (10-5, 3.18 ERA) has recently had a rough go, posting an 0-3 record and a 5.63 ERA in his last four starts. The left-hander surrendered three runs in six innings but didn't receive a decision in Saturday's 8-5 loss at Washington.

Lee, 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA in six career starts versus Los Angeles, will be opposed by fellow Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.21). The right-hander has looked every bit like one of the best pitchers in the game over his last 10 starts, going 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA.

"Everyone is playing good, I'm just feeding off the energy," he said. "For the most part, I'm executing pitches and all of them are a lot sharper."

Greinke had everything working again Saturday, scattering six hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay.

"Zack is one of the best pitchers in the league, and he showed why," Gonzalez said.

Greinke allowed four runs and a season-high 12 hits in seven innings in a 6-4 win over the Phillies on June 27.

The Dodgers have taken eight of 11 from the Phillies, including four straight at Citizens Bank Park.