(Sports Network) – Roy Halladay’s first shutout of 2011 officially punched the Phillies’ ticket to the postseason. In the hunt for a second straight Cy Young Award, the righty next has a chance at helping his club wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Meanwhile, a late surge has the Cardinals hoping they will get one more chance at the Phillies in the postseason following tonight’s conclusion of a four- game set.
Halladay posted his eighth complete game of the season on Wednesday in Houston, tossing a six-hitter in a 1-0 win. He also walked one and struck out seven, giving him a victory in seven of his last eight decisions. He has also allowed more than three earned runs just once in his past 15 starts to give him an 18-5 record and 2.34 earned run average on the season.
“He had good command, especially against the young hitters,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He had a lot of off-speed stuff. He didn’t throw them a lot of fastballs they could get to.”
The 34-year-old is one back of the league lead for wins and his ERA is third- best in the NL. Halladay is the first Phillies hurler to win at least 18 games in back-to-back season since Steve Carlton in 1979-80 and he owns an 8-2 mark and 2.32 ERA in 14 home starts.
Halladay is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in three career starts versus the Cardinals, who hope to pull closer in the race for a playoff spot with a 10th victory in 12 games tonight.
St. Louis shut out Philadelphia, 5-0, to pull within 3 1/2 games of the Braves for the wild card position with 10 games to play. The Phillies’ magic number to clinch the league’s best record remained at two over the Brewers.
The winner of the NL pennant will have home-field advantage in the World Series regardless due to the league’s victory in the All-Star Game.
Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer off Cole Hamels in the first inning and Allen Craig added a pair of long balls in Sunday’s win. Chris Carpenter made the homers stand up with eight innings of scoreless ball.
“Albert got us off the zero quickly and got everybody excited,” said Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. “(Then) Hamels got really, really tough, so it’s a good thing we got him before he got everything working.”
Hamels gave up four runs over seven innings for the Phillies, who have lost five of eight to the Cardinals this season. Chase Utley had three of Philly’s eight hits in the loss, which came one day after it secured the NL East crown in a club-record 150 games.
“Other than a couple of bad pitches, he was fine,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels.
Philadelphia was without first baseman Ryan Howard on Sunday and he is expected to receive a cortisone shot in his injured ankle today and miss the next few games. He leads Philadelphia with 33 homers and 113 RBI.
Kyle Lohse won’t mind seeing the former MVP out of the lineup as he tries to win 14 games for the third time in his 11 major league seasons. Lohse has won five of his past six decisions but did not get one in his last outing in Pittsburgh on Monday.
The 32-year-old righty allowed three runs on eight hits over six innings of an eventual 6-5 loss, giving him a 13-8 record and 3.62 ERA on the season.
The one-time Phillie is 2-4 with a 3.91 ERA against his former team and lost to them on June 22 despite eight innings of work as he was on the wrong end of a 4-0 shutout.