The Philadelphia Phillies haven't been at .500 since June, but their recent play has them believing that a playoff run isn't impossible.
Seeking their first five-game win streak in four months, the Phillies open a three-game home series against the Miami Marlins on Monday night.
Philadelphia has won 15 of 21 and is coming off a thee-game sweep of Colorado over the weekend as it begins a very favorable portion of its schedule.
The Phillies (69-71) swept a doubleheader from the Rockies on Sunday, winning the opener 3-2 and the nightcap 7-4.
With four consecutive wins - its fifth run of that length since a season-high six-game streak from May 13-18 - Philadelphia moved within six games of St. Louis for the second wild-card spot.
The Phillies, who haven't been .500 since they were 28-28 on June 4, play four of their final seven series against teams with losing records. The next seven games are against last-place teams Miami and Houston."You can kind of sense the crowd's excitement, coming down the stretch of games with a chance to win," John Mayberry said. "I don't think anybody in this clubhouse has written ourselves off."
Strong pitching has been at the forefront of the team's resurgence, with the staff posting a 2.82 ERA over the last 21 games. The bullpen has been even better during that stretch, compiling a 1.92 ERA.
Although the Marlins (63-78) are at the bottom of the NL East, they have won seven of 12 in the season series and are surging offensively.
Miami is averaging 6.4 runs and batting .299 in the last seven games, winning four.
The Marlins took two of three at NL-leading Washington over the weekend, winning 8-0 on Sunday behind Ricky Nolasco 's four-hitter. Giancarlo Stanton homered in his third straight game, giving him 14 homers and 28 RBIs in 31 games since returning from a one-month absence.
"Our offense has been great the last three days, there's no doubt about it," manager Ozzie Guillen told the Marlins' official website.
Stanton has homered in four consecutive games once previously - Aug. 14-17, 2011 - and has two in 11 games against the Phillies this year.
Stanton is just 3 for 15 (.200) against scheduled starter Kyle Kendrick (8-10, 3.96 ERA), but he does have one homer.
Kendrick has been outstanding lately, going 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts. He had his four-start win streak snapped at Cincinnati on Tuesday, yielding a two-run homer and five other hits over six innings in a 2-1 loss.
The right-hander is 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last nine appearances against the Marlins, winning both starts this season. He scattered five hits over seven innings in a 1-0 victory Aug. 14.
The Marlins will counter with Wade LeBlanc (2-3, 2.72), who is making his second consecutive start after rejoining the rotation.
LeBlanc has bounced between the bullpen and starting in 20 appearances this year. He allowed three runs and five hits over six innings of an 8-4 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday, but did not receive a decision.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz returned to Philadelphia's lineup Sunday after missing over a month with a foot injury and went 2 for 2. He is 0 for 5 lifetime against LeBlanc.
|September 04, 2012||Heath Bell||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 22, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|August 13, 2012||Nick Green||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|August 04, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|August 04, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|August 04, 2012||Donnie Murphy||15-Day DL||Left hamstring strain|
|September 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 31, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus in right knee|
|August 29, 2012||Cole Hamels||Day-to-Day||Gastrointestinal illness|
|August 29, 2012||Vance Worley||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in right elbow|
|August 28, 2012||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee soreness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Kyle Kendrick has helped turn the surging Phillies from September spoiler into a potential playoff contender.
Kendrick struck out a career-high eight over seven strong innings to lead Philadelphia to its fifth straight win, 3-1 over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.
Staked to a 3-0 lead, Kendrick (9-10) took a no-hitter into the sixth before Rob Brantly 's leadoff single. The right-hander escaped a bases-loaded jam when he struck out Giancarlo Stanton on a changeup.
Often overlooked on a staff that includes Cole Hamels , Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee , Kendrick has been a huge reason why the Phillies (70-71) are making a late push to get into the NL wild-card race. He's won five of his last six starts and has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his past six.
"We definitely know where we're at," Kendrick said. "We've got to win every night. But we're in the hunt. That's fun. Hopefully we can make something happen."
The Phillies have won 13 of 17 overall. They began the night six games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot and are trying to leapfrog a mix of teams that includes Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
Manager Charlie Manuel predicted the Phillies would have to win 14 or 15 games over the final 21 to make the playoffs.
"We might win all 21 of them," he said, smiling.
Forget ruining other teams' chances at a postseason berth. The Phillies, who have won the last five NL East titles, plan to take one for themselves.
Domonic Brown hit a two-run homer off Wade LeBlanc (2-4), and a hustling Michael Martinez scored on a wild pitch in a three-run fifth.
Antonio Bastardo tossed a scoreless ninth for his first save this season. He got the call after Jonathan Papelbon earned a win and save in a doubleheader sweep against Colorado on Sunday.
"I don't think anybody's looking at the standings," Brown said.
Kendrick struck out five of the first seven batters he faced and had more than 40,000 fans buzzing early.
There was even the standard defensive gem that accompanies no-hitters.
Carlos Lee hit a chopper that eked over a leaping Kendrick's outstretched glove. Second baseman Chase Utley charged and made the throw to nip Lee.
Kendrick got a standing ovation in the sixth after Brantly's single. He walked two batters to load the bases before fanning Stanton to keep the shutout intact and send the crowd into a frenzy.
"I see more life, more get-up and go," Manuel said.
Donovan Solano made it 3-1 on a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Kendrick allowed two hits and walked three.
The Phillies were 57-67 on Aug. 22 but can hit the .500 mark with a win Tuesday for the first time since they were 28-28 on June 4. They could do some damage over the next 10 games, too. Monday kicked off a stretch of 10 straight against losing teams in the Marlins, Astros and Mets.
Philadelphia has some punch off the bench for the playoff push.
Darin Ruf was called up Monday after he led all minor leaguers with 38 home runs for Double-A Reading. He hit 20 homers in August and earned the nickname "Babe." Manuel said he was eager to see the rookie take some cuts.
Brown showed Ruf how to go deep in the majors in the fifth. After Ty Wigginton walked leading off the inning, Brown's second homer of the season landed just inside the right-field foul pole. Martinez doubled two batters later, advanced to third on a grounder and hustled home on a wild pitch.
"The first mistake was in not being aggressive," LeBlanc said. "I left the pitch belt high in the middle of the plate."
LeBlanc gave up four hits and struck out five in five innings.
"We had opportunities with the right people at the plate, but we didn't swing the ball well," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
NOTES: Stanton had homered in six straight road games. ... Miami CF Justin Ruggiano struck out four times. ... Phillies RHP Tyler Cloyd will start Thursday on short rest against Houston. ... The Phillies send Roy Halladay (9-7, 3.87 ERA) to the mound Tuesday against Miami rookie Nathan Eovaldi (4-11, 4.44).