Phillies-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies are last in the NL East, but at least they're finally been able to string together some wins.

That's something the Toronto Blue Jays haven't been able to say recently.

Philadelphia goes for a third consecutive victory in Friday night's series opener at Rogers Centre against the slumping Blue Jays.

Although a bevy of injuries has hindered the Phillies' bid for a sixth consecutive division title, the team closed its series in Minnesota with its first back-to-back wins in two weeks.

It'll also head to Toronto with a rested bullpen after Joe Blanton went the distance in Thursday's 6-1 victory.

"That was a very pleasant surprise,'' manager Charlie Manuel said.

Jim Thome hitting a home run is no surprise at all. The 41-year-old is batting .458 (11 for 24) with three homers and 13 RBIs in the last six games - all on the road - after hitting No. 607 on Thursday.

"Nothing he does surprises me,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Thome, who is one shy of becoming the fourth player to hit at least 100 homers with three teams.

Thome and the Phillies (31-34), winners of six of eight versus Toronto, will get their first look at Drew Hutchison (5-3, 4.66 ERA) on Friday.

After allowing one or zero runs in winning four of his previous five starts, the rookie right-hander gave up five runs over 6 1-3 innings in Saturday's 5-2 loss at Atlanta.

"I thought today Drew pitched as consistent as he's been the last three or four times out,'' manager John Farrell said.

He's been extremely consistent at home. Hutchison is 3-0 in four starts at Rogers Centre with a 2.42 ERA - more than four runs better than his road mark.

The Blue Jays (31-32) could use another good home outing from Hutchison considering they haven't seen a quality start in their last six games. Kyle Drabek didn't make it out of the fifth inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Washington, Toronto's sixth in seven games to drop into a last-place tie with Boston.

"I know guys are frustrated," Farrell said. "... I think everyone is aware of where we are in terms of record in standing, but it doesn't dissuade the mentality of approach."

Something needs to change after Toronto went 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position against the Nationals. It's 5 for 38 (.132) with 16 strikeouts in such scenarios in six home games this month.

Despite the Blue Jays' struggles at the plate, Jose Bautista has been having some of his best at-bats of the season. The majors' two-time reigning home run champ has 19 after going deep seven times in the last 11 games, and he's also reached base safely in 14 straight.

Bautista went 5 for 11 with three homers - one in each game - as the Blue Jays dropped two of three to visiting Philadelphia from July 1-3.

Bautista has yet to face Vance Worley (3-2, 3.00), who makes his third start since a stint on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.

The right-hander lasted six innings in Saturday's 6-4, 12-inning loss at Baltimore, giving up three runs - all unearned.

Worley, who is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in four interleague starts, has never faced Toronto.

These clubs have split 36 games since the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series on Joe Carter's series-ending home run.

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