(Sports Network) - Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies all season long. Tonight they return to the location of one of their brightest points of this year.
Roy Halladay will step foot on the Sun Life Stadium mound for the first time since throwing the 20th perfect game in major league history as Philadelphia, likely without Ryan Howard, begins a three-game set with the Florida Marlins.
Though nine games over .500 (57-48), the Phillies are three games back of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East thanks to an offense that has gone ice cold at times.
Injuries have also hurt the club, as Chase Utley (right thumb), Shane Victorino (abdominal strain) and Jamie Moyer (left elbow) are currently on the disabled list, while Jimmy Rollins has endured two DL stints this season and both Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz have also been hurt.
Injuries also made Sunday's 6-4 extra-inning victory over Washington hard to enjoy, as left fielder Raul Ibanez was scratched before the game due to a sore left wrist and former MVP Howard exited in the first inning due to a sprained left ankle while running the bases. X-rays on the All-Star were negative, but he is scheduled to fly back to Philadelphia for further examination and a disabled list stint seems likely.
Howard is hitting .292 with 23 homers and a NL-leading 81 RBI this season.
Without their slugger, the Phillies got three hits from Polanco, including a go-ahead RBI single in the 11th inning. Jayson Werth followed with a run- scoring double to help Philadelphia avoid a three-game sweep by the Nationals and win for the ninth time in 11 games.
Embattled closer Brad Lidge, who blew a save in Saturday's loss, bounced back with a 1-2-3 inning to record his 11th save.
Philadelphia will try to inch closer to first place behind Halladay, who threw a perfect game in Florida on May 29 while striking out a season-high 11 batters. The outing was just one of his MLB-high eight complete games and three shutouts, though it didn't leave the Marlins shaking their heads.
"Look who's pitching -- it's Roy Halladay, he's the best pitcher in baseball," said Florida's Cody Ross after the perfecto. "It's not embarrassing. He's a Cy Young Award winner, and he did exactly what he needed to do [that night]. He executed every single pitch it seemed like, and you just have to tip your hat. I'm not going to walk out of here with my head down."
The 33-year-old Halladay will try to win a third straight start tonight and has allowed just one run in that span of 17 innings. He beat the Rockies with eight scoreless frames on July 23, then limited the Diamondbacks to one run and six hits over a complete-game victory on Wednesday, marking the fifth time in six starts Halladay has pitched at least eight innings.
Halladay, who is 2-2 with a 2.12 earned run average in his career versus the Marlins, is 12-8 on the season and his 2.21 ERA is the third-best in baseball.
Countering the right-handed Halladay tonight for the Marlins will be 6-foot-8 lefty Sean West, who makes his first big-league start of this year after going 4-3 with a 4.12 ERA with Triple-A New Orleans.
West made 20 starts with Florida as a rookie a season ago and went 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA. One of those came versus the Phillies, and he got a no-decision after yielding three runs -- two earned -- over four frames of work.
Florida had a three-game win streak end on Sunday in a 5-4 loss to San Diego. Marlins ace Josh Johnson gave up a season-high five runs over just 5 2/3 innings, snapping his string of quality starts at 19 in a row while lifting his MLB-leading ERA to 1.96.
"I give them credit, but I didn't make my pitches [Sunday]," said Johnson. "I didn't make my pitches and I let them stay in there, that will hurt you all the time."
Hanley Ramirez connected on a solo homer in the loss, while Wes Helms, Logan Morrison and Ronny Paulino each had an RBI for Florida.
These two clubs have split 26 total meetings since 2009. The Phillies won two of three in Florida in late May and have won 11 of the last 14 meetings at Sun Life Stadium.