While it's early in May, the Philadelphia Phillies are playing with a sense of September urgency as their injury-ravaged lineup tries to scratch out runs against a division rival to help their top-flight rotation.
The Phillies (12-12) are hitting .250 overall, averaging 3.3 runs and have been held to three or fewer runs 13 times already - going 3-10 in those games as they try to get by without stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. John Mayberry Jr. provided the big hit in Tuesday night's 4-2 win, a bloop double in the eighth inning that triggered a two-run rally for the reigning five-time NL East champs.
''We just have to keep battling," said Cole Hamels, who allowed two runs in six innings for the Phillies. "Things aren't going to come easy. Sometimes we have months in the past where things just seemed like they were easy because it seemed like we could just steamroll through a team. It's not going to be that case anymore.''
Halladay (3-2, 1.95 ERA) can relate to Hamels' sentiment since the Phillies have provided him one run as he's lost his last two starts. The right-hander yielded three runs in seven innings of a 5-1 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Friday in his "worst" start of the year, but he refuses to worry about the support - or lack thereof - his offense will provide every time he takes the mound.
''You worry about what you can control,'' said Halladay, who is limiting opponents to a .188 batting average. ''As a pitcher, really that's just trying to make pitches. Outside of that there's not a whole lot you have a hand in, whether it's offensively or defensively or where balls are hit. That's part of the game and you understand that."
Halladay is 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in seven lifetime appearances - six starts - versus the Braves, but he went 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against them last year.
Atlanta (14-10) is also dealing with some lineup issues due to injury - right fielder Jason Heyward may miss his third consecutive game due to a sore oblique muscle, and third baseman Chipper Jones did not play Tuesday for the 12th time this season.
The Braves would love to have Jones in the lineup since he's 7 for 13 with three doubles and two solo homers lifetime against Halladay, but may have no problems keeping Heyward out - he's 0 for 8 with two strikeouts against the righty.
Tommy Hanson (3-2, 3.00) is seeking his third consecutive victory as he takes the mound for Atlanta. He hasn't gotten much more run support than Halladay - the Braves have totaled 10 runs in his five outings - but the right-hander has limited opponents to three runs in 13 innings in winning his last two starts.
Hanson held Pittsburgh to one run in six innings of a 6-1 victory Friday, working in and out of trouble as he allowed six hits and three walks.
"Tommy didn't have his best stuff, but he got through it," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team's official website. "He pitched."
The righty is 1-2 lifetime against the Phillies despite a 2.23 ERA over seven starts.
He did not get a decision in his only start against Philadelphia last year, conceding a solo homer among four hits in seven innings before Atlanta won 4-1 in 11 innings.