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Phillies, Once Again, Trying to Get Back On Track Against The Cubs

(Sports Network) – It’s been all smiles for the Chicago Cubs on their current homestand and they’ll go for a series victory this afternoon in the third test of a four-game series versus the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs opened their 10-game homestand by handing the Phillies a 12-6 loss in Thursday’s series opener before taking yesterday’s second portion of this series, 4-3, on an Aramis Ramirez solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Ramirez ended 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Marlon Byrd tied the game with a two-run homer in the sixth inning for the Cubs, who have won six of their last nine games.

“If that continues,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on the team’s site, “it’s like a little forest fire that starts spreading a little bit. Let’s keep working and keep playing and hope we keep winning some baseball games.”

Ted Lilly started for the Cubs and did not record a decision after giving up three runs in seven innings. Sean Marshall recorded the victory with a scoreless eighth and Carlos Marmol struck out three in the ninth for his 17th save of the season.

Chicago will also host Houston and St. Louis on the residency.

Since beginning the season 3-0 over his first five starts, Cubs starter Randy Wells has struggled mightily. He is just 1-7 with a 5.11 earned run average in his last 13 starts and will take the ball Saturday.

Wells was solid in his last appearance, hurling seven innings of three-run ball in a 3-2 loss at Los Angeles on July 8. He struck out seven Dodgers that day and allowed just one walk before falling to 4-7 overall with a 4.61 ERA.

The right-hander is 2-3 in nine home starts in 2010 and has never faced the Phillies in his career.

Philadelphia entered the All-Star break fresh off a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, but are now having trouble with another NL Central foe. In Friday’s tough loss, reliever Ryan Madson gave up Ramirez’s bomb to left in the eighth inning to absorb the defeat.

Joe Blanton was decent through the first seven innings and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks with eight K’s in the no-decision. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer and Shane Victorino delivered a solo shot to get the Phils on the board first in the fourth inning.

“We just need to get runs. We need to keep them from scoring runs,” Howard said. “Laws of baseball. Outscore the other team.”

The Phillies are still 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the lead in the National League East, while the New York Mets sit five games off the pace. Both the Braves and Mets lost on Friday. Philadelphia will visit St. Louis for four games after its trip to the Windy City.

In injury news for the ballclub, the Phillies activated third baseman Placido Polanco off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday. Polanco has not played since June 25 due to inflammation in his left elbow. He had been playing through the injury after getting hit by a pitch, but medication and cortisone shots did not remedy the issue.

Through 62 games this season, the 34-year-old veteran was batting .318 with five home runs and 27 RBI. He was the leading vote-getter among National League third basemen in All-Star balloting prior to his injury. To make room on the roster, the club gave infielder Juan Castro his unconditional release.

Philly hopes that Cole Hamels can stay on the winning side of things when he takes the mound today. Hamels was 1-5 in eight starts before winning his most recent trip to the hill, a 1-0 victory versus Cincinnati on Sunday. He threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings and gave up six hits with three strikeouts and three walks to improve to 7-7 in 18 starts and lower his ERA to 3.78.

Hamels, a left-hander, will try to even his road record Saturday, as he sports a 3-4 ledger in eight away starts this season. The 2008 World Series MVP is 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs.

The Phillies had a five-game winning streak at Wrigley Field halted with Thursday’s loss, but have still won eight of the past 12 meetings between the ballclubs.