The final leg of the 2006 season begins tonight against Ramon Ortiz and the Nationals. The Phillies are tied with the Dodgers for the NL Wild Card lead with six games to play, while the Nats will try to play spoiler.
On paper, the remaining schedule sets up nicely for the Phils. Last night at Citizens Bank Park, they ran out of home mojo in an uninspiring 5-4 loss to Houston. Hitting the road against the threadbare Nats might be just what the doctor ordered. The Phils are 41-34 away from the Bank.
They’re also just 8-8 against Washington this season, but the Nationals head home with major issues. First baseman Nick Johnson is out with a broken leg, plus, a train derailment delayed their arrival home following last night’s game in New York. According to the AP, their chartered Amtrak train derailed early Tuesday near Wilmington, Del. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the train arrived at 5 a.m.
The Phillies already have the edge in the pitching matchup, where Brett Myers (12-6, 3.94 ERA) faces Ramon Ortiz (10-15, 5.40 ERA). If Ortiz isn’t the worst starter in the National League, he’s a close second. The right-hander fell to 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA over his last three outings after surrendering five runs and eight hits over five innings in a 7-3 loss to Atlanta Wednesday. He’s allowing one home run per game, and about as many in vast RFK as anywhere else. The Phils have embarrassed Ortiz this season, including 8 runs over 1 1-3 innings back on Aug. 19. Meanwhile, Myers is coming off a complete game against the Cubs and has been lights-out this month.
After squandering an opportunity to move a full game ahead of the Dodgers last night, expect the Phils go on the attack early. If they can minimize Alfonso Soriano, and get at least seven from Myers, they should come away with the ‘W.’ If only on paper.