Phillies look to bolster wild-card hopes versus Red Sox

While the Boston Red Sox have bottomed out in the American League wild-card chase, the Philadelphia Phillies are still alive and well in the National League playoff hunt.

Trailing the Chicago Cubs by 2 1/2 games for the second NL wild card, the Phillies (76-70) host the Red Sox (77-70) for a two-game series beginning Saturday. The teams met last month for two games in Boston, and Philadelphia won both for its first full-series sweep of the Red Sox since 2000.

After off days Friday, each team's ace is scheduled to take the mound in the opener: The Phillies will start right-hander Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.70 ERA) opposite Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (17-6, 3.73).

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Nola was dominant against Boston in the teams' last meeting, giving up just two runs on four hits and striking out seven over seven innings. The outing came in the midst of a strong August for the 26-year-old, but September hasn't been as kind, with Nola allowing nine runs in 10 innings across two starts.

Though he's scuffled, the Phillies have played well of late, winning four of their last six after salvaging a split of a four-game series with the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves with a 9-5 win Thursday. Philadelphia is 1 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers and a half-game ahead of the New York Mets in the chase for the last NL playoff position.

"Obviously we're watching the other teams that we're behind and teams we're trying to keep up with," catcher J.T. Realmuto said following Thursday's victory. "We knew they had all won today, so it was a big game for us. We needed to go out and get a 'W' and we got it done."

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are no longer scoreboard-watching. Boston, which snapped a five-game skid with a 7-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, is 10 games back of an AL wild-card berth.

"The effort is still there, they're still working," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "The at-bats were a lot better today, we controlled the strike zone a little bit more."

Leading the charge on offense in the win was Xander Bogaerts, who doubled among his two hits to reach 50 on the year. He joined Alex Rodriguez (1996) as the only shortstops in major league history to have 50 doubles and 30 homers in the same season.

"My mom has been rooting for me to get a double for a while, and I guess she knew more than me how important it was and how hard it was to get something like that," said Bogaerts, who has 31 blasts.

With one more home run, third baseman Rafael Devers would join Bogaerts in the 30-homer, 50-double club.

Rodriguez will hope for that kind of support after Boston was shut out in his last outing, in which he gave up just one run over six innings against the New York Yankees. He suffered the loss for only the second time in 17 starts since June 9.

The southpaw has a 1.11 ERA across his last five starts.

Rodriguez has faced the Phillies once, holding them to one run in seven innings back in 2015. Nola (1.80 ERA vs. the Red Sox) will make his third start against Boston.

--Field Level Media

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