(Sports Network) - Outstanding play at home has helped the Philadelphia Phillies close in on first place in the National League's East Division, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are in danger of falling out of the playoff picture in part due to the team's lousy recent performances on the road.
The Dodgers will attempt to end those woes when they head to Citizens Bank Park tonight to take on the red-hot Phillies in the first meeting between the teams since last year's National League Championship Series.
Philadelphia has been on fire as of late, winning 14 of its last 17 contests to move within 1 1/2 games of first-place Atlanta in the NL East standings and just one back of San Francisco for the lead in the league's Wild Card race. The two-time defending NL champions have been even more dominant on their home turf over the past month, having compiled a stellar 13-1 mark at Citizens Bank Park since July 8.
The Phillies did have a 12-game home win streak halted in a 1-0 setback to Johan Santana and the New York Mets on Saturday, but bounced back to post a 6-5 decision in Sunday's finale of that three-game series. Raul Ibanez belted a three-run homer and Jayson Werth added a solo shot in support of Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay, who notched his 14th win of the season despite struggling near the end of his seven-inning stint.
Halladay (14-8) was touched for a pair of runs in the first inning but held the Mets scoreless until allowing Angel Pagan's RBI single in the sixth. New York scored twice more off the All-Star right-hander in the seventh to pull within 6-5, but Halladay recovered and struck out Carlos Beltran with two men on to prevent further damage.
"It's a little easier to sleep at night taking a win out of it, especially against a team we need to win games against," Halladay told the Phillies' official site afterward.
Ibanez, meanwhile, has helped carry a Philadelphia squad that's presently without sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and center fielder Shane Victorino during the team's outstanding stretch. The veteran outfielder is riding a career-high 16-game hitting streak and is batting .407 (24-for-59) with four homer and 16 RBI over the course of the tear.
Ibanez has hit .321 (9-for-28) with a pair of home runs lifetime against Vicente Padilla, who'll be taking the mound for the Dodgers in the opener of this three-game set. The one-time Phillie enters tonight's clash off his best showing of the season, a complete-game shutout of San Diego last Wednesday in which he yielded just two hits and struck out nine Padres hitters.
Padilla has been hard to score upon in just about all his recent starts. In seven outings since June 30, the surly right-hander has produced a sensational 1.13 ERA and limited the opposition to a .150 average while amassing a 4-1 record. He's allowed two runs or fewer in every one of those assignments.
The 32-year-old, who pitched for the Phillies from 2000-05, has only faced his former club one time previously during the regular season. That took place in 2008 while with Texas, with Padilla tagged for seven runs over six innings in a losing effort.
Padilla did start twice against Philadelphia during last October's NLCS, pitching well in a no-decision at Los Angeles in Game 2 but surrendering six runs in three innings to lose the deciding Game 5 held at Citizens Bank Park.
The Dodgers dropped all three games played in Philadelphia in the NLCS, but did take two of three from the Phils at Citizens Bank Park during last year's regular season.
Los Angeles would settle for a win of any kind on the road right now, as Joe Torre's squad has lost five in a row and nine of its last 10 as the guest. That poor mark is one reason why the Dodgers have fallen 5 1/2 games behind the rival Giants in the Wild Card chase and seven back of San Diego for the top spot in the NL West.
The Dodgers do enter this seven-game trip, which also includes a series with the NL East-leading Braves, having won four of their last six tests and closing out a homestand with back-to-back victories over Washington. After prevailing in 10 innings on Saturday, Los Angeles struck for four first-inning runs en route to an 8-3 triumph over the Nationals in Sunday's finale.
Jamey Carroll highlighted the big inning with a two-run single and went 3- for-3 for Los Angeles, while Ronnie Belliard collected a pair of hits and scored three times to help back six solid innings out of trade-deadline pickup Ted Lilly.
Lilly (5-8), acquired from the Chicago Cubs just prior to the July 31 non- waiver deadline, permitted three runs -- two of which came on back-to-back homers from Mike Morse and Justin Maxwell in the second inning -- and five hits while fanning six to win his second straight start as a Dodger.
"I was throwing the ball a little flat early," said Lilly. "After the home runs I was able to get on top of it more. We were able to put pressure on them by the way we ran the bases."
While the Dodgers will be counting on another sharp display from Padilla, the Phillies will be seeking a fourth straight strong game out of Kyle Kendrick in tonight's opener. Since being rocked for seven runs in five innings in a July 19 loss at St. Louis and briefly sent to the minors afterward, the lanky right-hander has gone 2-0 with an impressive 1.77 ERA over a three-start span.
Kendrick was solid once again in a 7-2 win at Florida this past Wednesday, giving up two runs and scattering eight hits without walking a batter over the first six innings. He's been excellent at Citizens Bank Park as well lately, having allowed just three runs over a combined 20 innings spanning his past three home starts.
The 25-year-old is 2-2 in four career encounters with the Dodgers, despite having pitched to a 7.29 ERA in those games. Both of those wins took place in Philadelphia, however.