We're keeping our eyes on an overtaxed bullpen and out-of-sorts clean-up hitter tonight as the Phillies' quest for the Wild Card continues in Houston.
Notes: Ryan Howard won't be 100 percent healthy this season, but the Phillies could use a few vintage efforts from their clean-up hitter down the home stretch if they are to make a serious charge. Howard, who has been back on the field for over two months and remains visably ginger on his surgically repaired Achilles, is hitting just .227/.305/.412, and in the words of someone I spoke with earlier, has stranded a small village on the bases recently. In his last 10 games, he's hitting just .158 with one extra base hit, a double. It's difficult to set realistic expectations knowing he's playing hurt, but at the same time, he's a daily fixture in the lineup and is expected to pull his weight, and right now, he's not.
Meanwhile, the Phillies send Cole Hamels to the hill and need a nice, deep effort. The bullpen has ratcheted up a innings recently and could use a blow against the league's doormat.
All-in lineup: Rollins, Pierre, Utley, Howard, Ruiz, Brown, Mayberry, Frandsen.