If the Philadelphia Phillies are to remain a serious wild-card contender in the NL, they can't afford to let any more potential victories slip away.
Cole Hamels tries again to match a career high for wins while looking to help the Phillies rebound from a frustrating defeat Friday night when they continue their road series with the lowly Houston Astros.
Riding a season-high seven-game winning streak, Philadelphia (72-72) led 4-0 Thursday before Houston scored three in the fourth inning and three more in the eighth en route to a 6-4 victory. The loss was just the third in 14 games for the Phillies, who dropped four games behind St. Louis for the second and final wild-card spot.
"The percentages in baseball, sooner or later you are going to get beat,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "At the same time, I didn't mean for it to happen (Thursday). We had a chance to win the game, it was sitting right in front of us. The bottom line is that we didn't add on runs, but we didn't execute either.''
Philadelphia would appear to have a good chance to bounce back behind Hamels (14-6, 3.03 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in six starts since losing at Washington on Aug. 2. Hamels, who will try a fourth straight time to match the career-high win total he set while going 15-5 in 2007, allowed two runs in seven innings of a 3-2 win over Colorado on Sunday.
The left-hander, however, is 0-3 with a 6.91 ERA in five starts versus Houston after going 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA in his first four.
Philadelphia has won six of nine against the Astros (46-98) but all three of those losses during that stretch have came at Houston. Though the Astros own the majors' worst record, they have won four of seven overall. Jed Lowrie delivered a go-ahead two-run double and Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer Thursday.
"(The Phillies) come (in) with a lot on the line and we have a chance to kind of derail that and finish the season on a positive note," Thursday's winning pitcher Wesley Wright said.
Scheduled Houston starter Edgar Gonzalez (2-0, 1.74) looks for a third straight winning start since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sept. 3. He's allowed one run in each of those two starts, most recently despite a blister on his foot Sunday at Central Division-leading Cincinnati when gave up two hits in five innings of a 5-1 win.
Pitching for his fourth major league team and back in the majors after toiling in the Mexican League, Gonzalez is surprised with his recent success.
"I'm feeling good," the right-hander said. "I didn't expect two wins but I'm more mature now."
Though Gonzalez is making his first start versus Philadelphia, he has a 15.75 ERA in two relief appearances against the Phillies. The most recent came in 2008 for Arizona.
Philadelphia's Juan Pierre, who had two hits in the opener, is 5 for 10 against Gonzalez and batting .440 (11 for 25) in his last eight games overall.