The Los Angeles Dodgers are sitting just outside the playoff picture, but are playing like a team near the bottom of the standings.
The Philadelphia Phillies may fit that description, but they're trying to stay positive.
The struggling Dodgers look to put a few brutal games behind them in Monday night's series opener against the visiting Phillies, who are seeking their first three-game winning streak in more than seven weeks.
Los Angeles (48-42) has lost five of six to slip 1 1/2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco, and opened the second half of the season by dropping the last two games of a set with last-place San Diego in miserable fashion. After allowing the Padres to score a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth inning without a pitch being thrown in Saturday's 7-6 setback, the Dodgers committed a season-high five errors leading to six unearned runs in a 7-2 defeat to conclude the series.
Matt Kemp got a scheduled day off Sunday after going 5 for 9 in his first two games off the disabled list, and is expected back in the lineup Monday. So are Philadelphia sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who also rested Sunday.
The Phillies (39-51) managed to win without their stars, beating Colorado 5-1 for their second straight victory following a 1-11 stretch. Philadelphia, which hasn't won three straight since a four-game run May 23-26, is still 14 games behind NL East-leading Washington and 11 games out of a wild-card spot.
"We all have faith,'' said Hunter Pence, who hit a three-run homer - his first of July - on Sunday. "We're feeling good and we're going to keep pushing.''
The Phillies, who were swept by the Dodgers in four home games last month, will likely feel confident Tuesday with Roy Halladay scheduled to come off the DL and pitch for the first time since May. In the series opener, though, the ball goes to struggling Joe Blanton (7-8, 4.98 ERA).
Blanton entered the All-Star break after permitting six runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Atlanta on July 7. He served up a homer to Brian McCann, making it 11 straight games he has allowed at least one long ball. Blanton has surrendered 19 homers during that forgettable streak, and is trying to avoid becoming the first Phillie to allow homers in 12 consecutive starts since Randy Wolf from April 19-June 19, 2000.
Blanton could have better luck at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. He is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA in four outings at Chavez Ravine, and the Dodgers have 53 homers - one more than San Francisco for the fewest in baseball.
Los Angeles right fielder Andre Ethier, who is 5 for 11 with a home run and five RBIs in three games since a stint on the DL, is 6 for 14 with two homers lifetime against Blanton.
The Dodgers turn to Nathan Eovaldi (1-5, 4.21), whose turn has been pushed up a day after Chad Billingsley was scratched from his start Sunday due to elbow soreness.
Eovaldi allowed one run in six innings of a 4-1 victory over Arizona on July 5, his first win since his major league debut last August, also against the Diamondbacks.
"Nice to finally get that first one out of the way,'' said the right-hander, who has never faced Philadelphia. "I try to go out there and try to keep us as close in every ballgame as I can.''
Eovaldi has yielded three runs or fewer in six of his eight starts this season, but received three total runs of support in his first seven outings - all losses for the Dodgers.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Joe Blanton