08/31/10 7:42 PM ET
Oswalt, Kershaw clash to open final month
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Philadelphia owns a narrow lead in the National League Wild Card race and has a month left to go until the postseason starts, and it will find itself playing a close rival on Wednesday. The Phillies subdued the Dodgers Tuesday, and they'll try to further lengthen their Wild Card lead in Wednesday's series finale.
And despite their lead, their recent history suggests that might be difficult. The Phillies are 23-22 in their last 45 games against the Dodgers, but they've managed to eliminate Los Angeles in the postseason in two straight years. Now, the two frequent sparring partners find themselves fighting just to remain in the hunt for late October.
Philadelphia has struggled on the road for much of this season, notching a 32-32 record away from Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have been much better in recent weeks, though, winning 10 of their last 12 road games. That trend comes directly on the heels of a stretch that saw the Phillies lose 12 of their previous 15 road games.
Recently, the Phillies have been playing through a strange dichotomy. Philadelphia has seen its starting rotation pitch to a 2.80 ERA in its last nine games, but it's also been held to two runs or fewer in eight of its last 13 games. The Phillies are 1-7 under those circumstances, and they won the other five games over that span.
Most important, though, the Phillies are trying to coalesce as the postseason approaches. Philadelphia has played through an injury-spattered year that has seen regulars Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco spend time on the disabled list. Now healthy, it's time to make a push.
Philadelphia will hand the ball to Roy Oswalt in Wednesday's game, and he'll be trying to continue a trend of excellent results since arriving in a midseason trade from the Astros. Oswalt is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA since joining the Phillies, and he's coming off an August that saw him pitch to a 3-0 record and a 1.53 ERA over five starts.
Oswalt has completed six innings in four of his last five starts, and he's held the opposing lineup to two earned runs or less four times in that span. The three-time All-Star went 6-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 20 starts for Houston before the trade, and he's posted a 4-0 record and a 3.66 ERA in eight career postseason outings.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are trying to keep their faint hopes for the postseason alive. After this series, Los Angeles will play 24 of its final 28 games against NL West rivals, leaving room for a late resurgence. The Dodgers will go into Wednesday nine games out in the division and 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies for the Wild Card.
"You start getting into the 30-game area, you have one page left on the calendar," said manager Joe Torre. "You've got to, as John Wooden used to say, be quick, but don't hurry. We're about there right now."
Phillies: Howard back in homer column
Howard blasted back into the scoring column on Wednesday, when he hit his first home run since July 27. Howard had gone 13 games without a homer, his second-longest drought of the season. Howard now has 246 career homers -- fourth in franchise history -- and the Phillies have forged a 142-78 all-time record when he homers.
Utley has struggled since his return from the disabled list, and the Phillies hope he can catch fire sometime during the month of September. Utley, who missed all of July, has just one home run since the start of June.
Dodgers: Kershaw winless vs. Phils
Clayton Kershaw will take the ball on Wednesday, and he'll be attempting to earn his first career win against the Phillies, against whom he's logged an 0-3 record with a 5.67 ERA in five career starts. The southpaw went 9-4 with a 2.96 ERA in the first half, and he's 2-4 with a 3.10 mark since the All-Star break.
Ryan Theriot had an 11-game hitting streak heading into Tuesday, but he snapped it as a pinch-hitter. Theriot, fifth in the league in multi-hit games, has batted .340 (16-for-47) over his last 12 games. The infielder has batted .309 (34-for-110) with 18 runs and eight RBIs in 29 games since arriving from the Cubs in a midseason trade.
The Phillies are 60-5 when leading after seven innings and 6-46 when trailing at that point of the game. ... Prior to Tuesday's win, the Phillies had been outscored 34-28 and outhit 104-76 in their previous 12 games. Philadelphia had just six home runs over that span. ... The Phillies have nine road series wins, 10 road series losses and one tie so far this season. ... The Dodgers are 45-22 when scoring first and 23-43 when their opponent draws first blood. ... Los Angeles is 48-27 when it hits a home run.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.