Clinging to hopes of winning the National League's second Wild Card spot, the Phillies need a victory in Sunday's series finale to split the four-game series against the Astros.
Houston's 5-0 win on Saturday night dropped Philadelphia back to .500. With 16 games remaining, the Phillies' margin of error is extremely small, having to pass the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates to catch up with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers who are both tied for the second Wild Card slot.
In Sunday's series finale, the Phillies will face one of the Major League's youngest pitchers in 21-year-old Jordan Lyles, who is 4-11 with a 5.35 ERA, but coming off a win against the Cubs on Tuesday. The second-year right-hander took a no-decision in a Houston loss in Philadelphia on May 15.
"I had a lot of guys on base, but at the end of the day, none of them crossed home plate, which is something to build on," Lyles said after Tuesday's 1-0 victory, in which he pitched five scoreless innings.
Lyles will oppose Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, the winner in each of his last four decisions. If Doc's last two starts at Minute Maid Park are any indication of how the two-time Cy Young Award winner will pitch Sunday, the Phillies are in good hands. Halladay started at Houston once in 2010 and once in 2011. Both were complete game wins and last year's was a shutout.
Phillies: Ruiz to play Sunday
Though Charlie Manuel wasn't ready to start Carlos Ruiz on consecutive days on Saturday, the manager said he would start his All-Star catcher in Sunday's series finale.
Ruiz had been battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot, a condition that recently landed him on the disabled list for five weeks. The Phillies have been trying to ease him back since he returned on Sept. 7. He's made only two starts since that time, but more could be on the way.
"I was giving him two or three days for a layoff, but I'm going to start playing him every other day at least to see where he's at," Manuel said. "I'll turn him loose eventually when I can."
Kyle Kendrick, who had dazzled over his six prior starts, lasted only five innings in the Phillies' 5-0 loss to the Astros on Saturday night. Kendrick, who was born in Houston, took the defeat after giving up four runs on seven hits. He entered the game with a 5-1 record and 1.49 ERA in his six prior outings.
Astros: Gonzalez could return soon
Marwin Gonzalez has taken grounders four consecutive days and said on Saturday that he could be ready to return to the lineup in three to five days. The infielder has been out with a torn ligament in his left ankle, sustained when he stepped awkwardly on first base on Aug. 30.
"I'm going to keep working and see how it feels," said Gonzalez, who was hitting .234 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
"Hopefully, the next few days, we'll get him back," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said.
Bud Norris, who missed his last start with a blister problem, is set to start Thursday in St. Louis.
"This has been going on for his last three starts," DeFrancesco said. "Every time, there's been an issue. Every time we keep talking about it. Finally we said, 'OK, let's give him time off. Let him skip a complete start and be ready to go."
Houston is the only NL club with a winning record against Philadelphia since 2004. The Astros are 34-23 (.596) in that span.
Sunday's series finale will mark the last matchup between these clubs for quite a while. The Astros are moving to the American League at season's end and are not scheduled to play the Phillies in Interleague Play in 2013.
The Phillies will face National League Cy Young Award candidate R.A. Dickey (18-5, 2.88) on Monday, when they open a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field. Cliff Lee (5-7, 3.36) will pitch for the Phillies in what projects to be a pitchers' duel.
Halladay is two wins shy of 200 for his career.