The Phils complete a sweep of the struggling Padres and hit the road to face Andy Pettitte and the surging Astros. They finish the homestand 9-4, but need to show what they’re made of on the road.
It’s hard to view the Phillies 9-4 homestand as a joyous accomplishment. Sure, they’ve pulled back into the playoff hunt, and sure, they beat two division leaders - the Nationals and Padres - in the process, but it’s been a while since the Phillies faced a team that really had their act together.
And it's been even longer since they’ve proven themselves on the road.
Enter Houston, a team that’s surging at the right time and in position to battle the Phils for a wild card birth until the bitter end.
The same can’t be said for the Padres, who were walking cadavers this series, especially with the bats. The Padres may end up winning their joke division, but they’ll be an easy wild card draw. They were hitting a collective .200 or so over the last few weeks and showed few signs of life after Friday’s 8-6 loss.
So it’s hard to say whether the three Phils starters – Vicente Padilla, Robinson Tejeda and Brett Myers – looked impressive, or whether the Pads helped them more with pathetic offense. Aside from some snapshot moments, like Chase Utley’s two homers or Ryan Howard’s doubles yesterday, the offense was good but not great this series.
The Padres lost every game on their six-game road swing and get to regroup Tuesday when they’re back home to face St. Louis.
Now it’s the Phillies' turn to show what they’re made of on the road.
The Phils play 37 of their last 63 games away from Citizen's Bank Park, where the team is 19-25 (.431). The last time they had a road trip of any length was the June 14-19 trip out west against the Mariners and A’s, resulting in a deflating 2-4 record after the 12-1 homestand.
Right off the bat, they smack head-on into the big three of Houston – Andy Pettitte (7-7, 2.82 ERA), Roy Oswalt (13-8, 2.41) and Roger Clemens (8-4, 1.40). All three are in the hunt for Cy Young.
Tonight’s game has loss written all over it. The last time they faced a left-handed starter was Odalis Perez in the Dodgers series and they were shut out. The Phils will have a tough adjustment against a red-hot Pettitte, in addition to playing their first road game in three weeks.
If there’s an argument as to why it’s important to carry at least one left-hander in a starting rotation – simply to throw something different at a team - tonight could be the night. Pettitte hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in six consecutive starts, going 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA in that span.
The Astros are returning home after winning seven of eight to close an 11-game trip.