Phillies-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

Roy Halladay let out some frustration during his last start after the Philadelphia Phillies lost for the fifth consecutive time he'd taken the hill.

If he only knew how Chris Volstad felt.

With Halladay seeking his first victory in over a month and Volstad looking to snap the majors' longest active winless stretch, the surging Phillies try for a two-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.

After winning his first three starts, Halladay (3-3, 3.20 ERA) has received an average of just 2.7 runs of support in going 0-3 over his last five.

Aside from getting roughed up during a 15-13, 11-inning loss at Atlanta on May 2, Halladay has been fairly solid over that stretch, compiling a 2.89 ERA over the other four starts.

"It's hard to explain baseball," manager Charlie Manuel said of Halladay's winless streak. "That's why it's such a great game."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was visibly upset after giving up what proved to be the winning run during Saturday's 2-1 loss to San Diego, yelling into his glove to let off some steam.

"I wasn't happy. It's an emotional game," Halladay told the team's official website. "I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but I'm never going to apologize for being emotional. Sometimes it hurts, and it should. If it doesn't, you should quit playing. I was not thrilled."

While Halladay's disappointment is certainly warranted, it surely pales in comparison to what Volstad is going through. The right-hander, acquired from Miami during the offseason, has gone 0-10 with a 5.15 ERA over his last 18 starts dating to mid-July.

Volstad (0-5, 6.92) saw his struggles continue Saturday in an 8-2 loss at Milwaukee, surrendering six runs in as many frames.

"The slider got him in trouble again," manager Dale Sveum said. "That is something we've got to work on because it's a pitch he needs, but it's getting hit too often and too hard."

Volstad is 0-4 with an 8.02 ERA over his last eight starts against the Phillies (19-19). He gave up four runs in six innings of a 6-4 road loss April 30.

Volstad now faces the tough task of slowing down a Philadelphia club riding a season-best four-game winning streak, during which it's outscored opponents 21-8. The Phillies matched their second-highest offensive output of the season during Wednesday's 9-2 victory - their third in a row at Wrigley.

Batting .407 over his last 18 games, Carlos Ruiz surpassed his home run total from 2011 with his seventh long ball. Recently recalled Hector Luna later added to Chicago's recent bullpen woes, capping a six-run ninth inning with a grand slam.

The Cubs' relievers have an 8.57 ERA over the last six games.

"The fact of the matter is we have guys pitching in roles they probably shouldn't be pitching in," Sveum said. "It's tough. They've never had to do this before and they're thrown into this mix all of a sudden."

Halladay hasn't experienced much success against Chicago (15-22) over the course of his career, going 1-5 with a 3.75 ERA in six starts. He's compiled a 5.29 ERA while losing all three outings at Wrigley Field.

In his most recent visit to the North Side, Halladay gave up three runs in four-plus innings before having to be removed due to heat during a 6-1 loss July 18. Starlin Castro is 6 for 12 against Halladay.

Jimmy Rollins has gone 14 for 32 (.438) with a homer off Volstad while Ruiz is 10 for 22 (.455).

Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco is uncertain to be available after exiting early Wednesday due to a bruised left knee.

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