The Los Angeles Dodgers are sitting just outside the playoff picture, but are playing like a team near the bottom of the standings.
The Philadelphia Phillies may fit that description, but they're trying to stay positive.
The struggling Dodgers look to put a few brutal games behind them in Monday night's series opener against the visiting Phillies, who are seeking their first three-game winning streak in more than seven weeks.
Los Angeles (48-42) has lost five of six to slip 1 1/2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco, and opened the second half of the season by dropping the last two games of a set with last-place San Diego in miserable fashion. After allowing the Padres to score a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth inning without a pitch being thrown in Saturday's 7-6 setback, the Dodgers committed a season-high five errors leading to six unearned runs in a 7-2 defeat to conclude the series.
Matt Kemp got a scheduled day off Sunday after going 5 for 9 in his first two games off the disabled list, and is expected back in the lineup Monday. So are Philadelphia sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard , who also rested Sunday.
The Phillies (39-51) managed to win without their stars, beating Colorado 5-1 for their second straight victory following a 1-11 stretch. Philadelphia, which hasn't won three straight since a four-game run May 23-26, is still 14 games behind NL East-leading Washington and 11 games out of a wild-card spot."We all have faith," said Hunter Pence , who hit a three-run homer - his first of July - on Sunday. "We're feeling good and we're going to keep pushing."
The Phillies, who were swept by the Dodgers in four home games last month, will likely feel confident Tuesday with Roy Halladay scheduled to come off the DL and pitch for the first time since May. In the series opener, though, the ball goes to struggling Joe Blanton (7-8, 4.98 ERA).
Blanton entered the All-Star break after permitting six runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Atlanta on July 7. He served up a homer to Brian McCann , making it 11 straight games he has allowed at least one long ball. Blanton has surrendered 19 homers during that forgettable streak, and is trying to avoid becoming the first Phillie to allow homers in 12 consecutive starts since Randy Wolf from April 19-June 19, 2000.
Blanton could have better luck at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. He is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA in four outings at Chavez Ravine, and the Dodgers have 53 homers - one more than San Francisco for the fewest in baseball.
Los Angeles right fielder Andre Ethier , who is 5 for 11 with a home run and five RBIs in three games since a stint on the DL, is 6 for 14 with two homers lifetime against Blanton.
Eovaldi allowed one run in six innings of a 4-1 victory over Arizona on July 5, his first win since his major league debut last August, also against the Diamondbacks."Nice to finally get that first one out of the way," said the right-hander, who has never faced Philadelphia. "I try to go out there and try to keep us as close in every ballgame as I can."
Eovaldi has yielded three runs or fewer in six of his eight starts this season, but received three total runs of support in his first seven outings - all losses for the Dodgers.
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||7||.143||1||0||0||0||0||.143||.286||.143|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||6||.500||3||0||1||0||0||.500||1.000||.500|
|July 13, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 25, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle - out 3-5 weeks|
|June 07, 2012||Freddy Galvis||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left game - left index finger laceration|
|June 02, 2012||Jose Contreras||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|May 28, 2012||Roy Halladay||15-Day DL||Right latissimus dorsi strain|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|July 05, 2012||Dee Gordon||15-Day DL||Right thumb UCL tear|
|July 04, 2012||Dee Gordon||Day-to-Day||Left game - Dislocated right thumb|
|July 03, 2012||Todd Coffey||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 28, 2012||Andre Ethier||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 28, 2012||Andre Ethier||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 03, 2012||Javy Guerra||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ryan Howard hit the ball out of the park for the first time this season and Joe Blanton kept the ball in the yard for the first time in more than two months.
As a result, the Philadelphia Phillies have their first three-game winning streak since late May.
Howard homered leading off the fourth inning for his first RBI in six games since coming off the disabled list and Blanton pitched eight effective innings to lead the Phillies over the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 on Monday night.
Howard, the 2006 NL MVP who averaged 132.7 RBIs over the previous six seasons and led the NL three times with 140 or more, missed Philadelphia's first 84 games because of the ruptured left Achilles tendon he sustained while grounding out to end last year's NL division series against St. Louis.
"It was definitely big, and it was something that was very meaningful today because we won," Howard said. "I feel good. Now it's just a matter of getting back into the flow of playing at this level, making adjustments and slowing myself down at times. Sometimes I get to be too quick."
Jimmy Rollins also went deep and Jonathan Papelbon retired pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy on an easy popup with a runner at third to end it. Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth in his Dodger Stadium debut, posting his 20th save in 22 attempts.
Next, the last-place Phillies get ace Roy Halladay back from the disabled list Tuesday night after missing seven weeks with a lat injury. The two-time Cy Young Award winner hasn't pitched in the majors since May 27 at St. Louis, when he lasted two innings and gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina during an 8-3 loss.
"It gives us a lot of hope," Howard said. "I mean, you have to forget what happened in the first half. We just have to keep doing what we're doing right now as a team and as a unit. The goal for us right now is just to go out and win a series, no matter who's on the mound."
Blanton (8-8) allowed two runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked none while helping the Phillies win three straight games for the first time since a four-game stretch May 23-26. The right-hander did not give up a home run for the first time since May 8 against the New York Mets , after 11 consecutive starts in which he allowed at least one for a total of 19 overall.
The Dodgers have the second-fewest homers in the majors, just one more than San Francisco.
"Keeping the ball down was a big difference. Lately I've had a little bit of trouble doing that as consistently as I did tonight," said Blanton, who threw 80 of 110 pitches for strikes. "I try to throw as many strikes as I can and expand the zone a little bit when I get ahead in the count."
Juan Rivera led off the seventh with a single and scored on Blanton's two-out wild pitch to Bobby Abreu . Blanton, however, retired Abreu on a fly ball and set down the side in order in the eighth, striking out Matt Kemp on a checked swing at a ball in the dirt.
"He was throwing all his pitches for strikes - sinkers in, cutters in," Dodgers shortstop Luis Cruz said. "He pitched a really good game. He had his stuff today, spotting every pitch he threw."
Nathan Eovaldi (1-6) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings before he was removed for a pinch-hitter. The 22-year-old right-hander was moved up a day in the rotation along with Chris Capuano because of an injury to Chad Billingsley , scratched from Sunday's start because of inflammation in his right elbow.
Capuano, who was scheduled to start the opener of this three-game series, lost 7-2 to San Diego after the Dodgers made five errors and gave up six unearned runs.
Juan Pierre , who spent three seasons with the Dodgers and was pushed out of a starting role in 2008 after the acquisition of Manny Ramirez , opened the scoring for the Phillies in the second inning with a two-out RBI single. Rollins made it 2-0 in the third, driving a 3-2 pitch into the left-field pavilion for his ninth homer.
"I left it over the plate," Eovaldi said. "I've been falling behind too often. I fall behind too many times, it's a predictable count. Even when I was ahead, I didn't put the batters away as quickly as I should."
Howard, who flied out to the left-field warning track his first time up, homered to left on Eovaldi's first pitch of the fourth to make it 3-0.
"I didn't know if the first one would go out. I just tried to make some solid contact, but I flew out at the warning track, so I knew we weren't in Colorado anymore," Howard said. "I just tried to come up my next AB and make something happen."
NOTES: The victory was the Phillies' 900th against the Dodgers during the regular season since the rivalry began back in 1890. The Dodgers have beaten them 1,144 times. They've also met in the postseason five times, with the Dodgers winning NL championship series in 1977 and 1978, and the Phillies winning the NLCS in 1983, 2008 and 2009. ... Blanton is 7-0 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts this season when pitching seven or more innings. In his other 10 starts, he is 1-8 with a 7.67 ERA. ... Howard needs six extra-base hits for 500 in the majors. ... The Dodgers, who swept a four-game series at Philadelphia during the first week of June, have lost six straight to the Phillies at home.