(Sports Network) – In the race for the best record in the National League, it is the Phillies who are starting to leave the Brewers way back in the rearview mirror.
Philadelphia goes for a fifth straight win this evening as it closes in on a playoff spot and continues a four-game series with Milwaukee at Miller Park.
The Phillies exploded for six runs in the sixth inning of yesterday’s opener to roll to a 7-2 win. It upped their major league-leading record to 92-48 and gave them a 9 1/2-game advantage over the NL Central-leading Brewers for the best record in the league.
Philadelphia also owns a magic number of 11 to claim its fifth straight NL East title and four to wrap up a playoff spot.
While Hunter Pence highlighted the Phils’ big inning on Thursday with a two- run triple, starter Cole Hamels posted the club’s MLB-best 17th complete game of the season. The lefty gave up four hits — including solo homers to Yuniesky Betancourt and Corey Hart — to win his 14th game of the season.
“When we scored the six runs that was a long wait,” said Hamels. “I wanted to get back out there and I was kind of stiff when I did. I needed to get loose again and had some trouble getting ahead of the hitters. But I got more comfortable as the inning went on and was able to finish strong.”
Philadelphia won despite not having Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the starting lineup. Utley did not travel with the team after being hit in the helmet by a pitch on Wednesday, while Rollins was activated from the disabled list but did not play as he nurses a strained groin.
Manager Charlie Manuel earned his 636th victory with the Phillies to move into a tie with Harry Wright for second on the club’s all-time list.
Chris Narveson was tagged for six runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings to take the loss, Milwaukee’s third in a row. The Brewers have been outscored 13-4 in that span and saw their lead over the second-place Cardinals fall to eight games.
“It’s hard to figure out with him,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said of Narveson. “There are so many games where he pitches really well. The first five innings he was sharp. Things just fell apart for him in the sixth when he had trouble finding his spots.”
Roy Halladay draws the start for the Phillies tonight and has won five of his last six decisions, but is coming off a no-decision versus the Marlins on Sunday. He was charged with three runs — two earned — on nine hits over six innings in a game the Phils lost 5-4 and played under protest.
Philadelphia filed the protest, which was later denied, after Pence had a double taken away due to fan interference when two men reached over the wall and touched his long drive. After a review, Pence was called out and Howard was sent from third base back to first, potentially costing Halladay some more run support.
“You hate to see it happen like that,” said Halladay. “I’ve never been a fan of replay to begin with, but that’s the way it is now.”
The right-hander is 16-5 with a 2.49 earned run average on the season, but that includes a loss to the Brewers back on April 19. The 34-year-old Halladay was charged with six runs and 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings, falling to 1-2 with a 6.41 ERA in three career starts against them.
While Halladay has struggled in his career versus Milwaukee, his counterpart for tonight, Shaun Marcum, has had success in this matchup. He is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in four career starts versus Philadelphia and allowed just one unearned run over six innings against the club during an April 18 meeting. Marcum, though, did not get a decision in a 6-3 win.
The 29-year-old righty snapped a two-start losing streak with a gem in Houston on Sunday. He hurled seven shutout innings of one-hit ball in a 4-0 triumph, walking one and striking out eight. It marked Marcum’s second straight outing in which he did not allow an earned run and he hasn’t given up more than three in six straight appearances.
He is 12-5 with a 3.11 ERA on the season.
These two clubs haven’t met since Milwaukee took two of three in Philadelphia from April 18-20, but the Phillies have won eight of the past 11 encounters.