Closing In

The Philadelphia Phillies believe that they can catch the New York Mets by the end of the season.

They'll look to make up ground in the NL East race Saturday when they continue their four-game series with the Washington Nationals in the final night game at RFK Stadium.

The Phillies (84-70) have won eight of their last nine games, and Friday's 6-3 victory kept them within 1 1/2 games of the East-leading Mets. New York, which beat Florida 9-6, led Philadelphia by seven games as recently as Sept. 12.

"I believe we're going to pull it off," said starter Adam Eaton, who won for the first time since July 20. "We're playing loose and free and know that we're capable of anything at any time."

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Philadelphia -140 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -140 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and MVP contender Jimmy Rollins all homered, but the bullpen was just as impressive. Tom Gordon and closer Brett Myers each pitched for the fourth straight day and the relief corps, which has allowed only two earned runs over 26 2-3 innings, threw four scoreless frames.

"There's no time to be sitting around, sitting back saying 'I can't pitch today,'" said Myers, who threw a perfect ninth for his 19th save. "There's no time to be sitting around wondering whether you're arm's going to fall off. Because that's when I'll quit throwing - when it falls off. We're not going to refuse the ball."

Chase Utley went 2-for-4 and is batting .309 (21-for-68) during a 16-game hitting streak. Rollins, meanwhile, reached the 200-hit mark for the first time in his career with a third-inning single.

The Phillies, who trailed 1-0 after an inning Friday, have pulled off a major league-best 48 come-from-behind wins. In Thursday's series opener, they rallied from a 6-2 deficit to win 7-6.

"That's a good ballclub over there," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "They have scored more than 220 more runs than we have."

The Nationals (68-86) have dropped three straight, but did get some good news with the return of shortstop Cristian Guzman, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list and entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth. Guzman was thought to be done for the season when he sprained his left thumb on June 24.

However, Wily Mo Pena left the game after being hit by a pitch on his left wrist and is day-to-day.

On Saturday, the Nationals will face Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (9-4, 4.05), who is tied with Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo for the league lead for wins by a rookie. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up three runs, all in his sixth and final inning, in Monday's 13-11 win over St. Louis.

"I lost focus a little bit, left some balls up, and they're going to hit them," Kendrick said. "I'll learn from that."

In his two starts against the Nationals, Kendrick is 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA.

Washington counters with Tim Redding (3-5, 3.73), who has lasted four or fewer innings in three of his last four starts. He gave up four runs in four innings Monday before the Nationals rallied for a 12-4 win over the New York Mets.

Redding is 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies.

He and Kendrick faced one another on Aug. 15 in Washington. Redding yielded two runs in six innings and earned the 4-2 win, while Kendrick allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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