The end of disappointing seasons for both the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins probably can't come soon enough.
Before that, these underachievers open a series Friday night in Miami as Cliff Lee and the Phillies try to extend the Marlins' season-high skid to eight games.
The winner of the last five NL East titles and World Series champion in 2008, Philadelphia (78-78) is on the brink of postseason elimination despite going 41-28 since the All-Star break. The Phillies lost for the fourth time in five games, 7-3 to Washington on Thursday to finish 40-41 at home - their first losing record in the nine-year history of Citizens Bank Park.
"We competed," slugger Ryan Howard said. "We never gave up when people never thought we'd even be mentioned for a playoff spot."
Philadelphia, however, has won three in a row and five of six versus Miami (66-90).
The Marlins began the season with plenty of promise after building a new stadium, hiring Ozzie Guillen as manager and acquiring Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. However, little has gone right and it might cost Guillen his job.
After falling 6-2 at Atlanta on Thursday, Miami tries to avoid losing eight in a row for the first time since an 11-game skid June 11-20, 2011.
"It's rough but we're still grinding,'' outfielder Bryan Petersen said. "We're going to push forward for momentum going into next year."
Outscored 30-13 over the last seven games, the Marlins won't have an easy task against Lee (6-8, 3.18 ERA), who is 4-1 with a 1.04 ERA in his last six starts.
The left-hander earned a win in four of his previous five before a 2-1 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday when he allowed one earned run and struck out 11 in eight innings. The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in 18 of Lee's 28 starts.
"You can go back and 'What if, this' and 'What if, that' with a lot of things," he told the Phillies' official website. "All I can control is what I can control, and give the team a chance to win every time."
Lee's teammates have totaled five runs while he's gone 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA against the Marlins this season. That victory came Sept. 12 at home when he gave up a run and four hits over seven innings of a 3-1 win.
Miami's Carlos Lee is batting .407 (11 for 27) with three homers versus Cliff Lee, but is 2 for 26 with one RBI during his team's recent skid.
As Buehrle (13-13, 3.84) takes the mound trying to avoid his first losing season since 2006, he needs to pitch only 5 2-3 innings to record 200 for the 12th consecutive year.
Though the left-hander gave up four runs, three walks and two homers in six innings of a 4-3 loss at New York on Saturday, he looks for a third consecutive winning home start versus Philadelphia. Buehrle allowed two runs over seven innings in each of those two against the Phillies at Marlins Park.
Howard, who has never faced Buehrle, is 1 for 20 with seven strikeouts versus Miami in 2012. He's gone 1 for 14 and fanned seven times in his last four games overall.