The Philadelphia Phillies have been on a tear, and there's little reason to believe it won't continue with Roy Halladay scheduled to take the mound Sunday - especially given his mastery of the Washington Nationals.
Halladay seeks his NL-best 16th victory and 11th straight over Washington in the finale of a three-game set in Philadelphia.
The major league-leading Phillies (78-41) have won 13 of their last 15 games and ended a three-game losing streak against the Nationals with an 11-3 victory Saturday. Halladay (15-4, 2.51) had won the two previous games between the clubs prior to that skid.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner has won his last 10 starts against the Nationals franchise - the first when the franchise was still located in Montreal in 2004 - including three this season. He has a 1.83 ERA during that stretch and has pitched into at least the seventh inning of each outing.
Halladay has also won his last four starts overall, including a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday in which he allowed one run in 6 1-3. He's tied for the league lead in wins with Arizona's Ian Kennedy and can now reach 16 victories for the sixth straight season.
The Nationals (57-62), losers of three of their last four, may want to keep the defensive mistakes to a minimum if they hope to beat Halladay this time around. Philadelphia scored seven unearned runs off three Washington errors Saturday, including two on Ryan Howard's two-run homer in the first inning.
"That's a good ballclub,' Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "You can't give them extra outs and that's what we did.'
Howard finished with four RBIs and is 6 for 12 in his last three games versus the Nationals. The 11 runs were the most for the Phillies since July 10, when they plated a season high-tying 14 against Atlanta.
"I feel like the lineup is great right now," Howard said. "It's just a matter of continuing to do what we're doing and we're having a lot of fun.'
Howard and the Phillies will try to have more fun against Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang (1-2, 3.60 ERA), who is coming off his first win since 2009.
Wang didn't allow a hit until his sixth and final inning in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander also walked two and hit a batter while not allowing a run in a start for the first time since June 15, 2008 - the same day he suffered a season-ending right-foot injury.
Wang would pitch in 12 games for the New York Yankees in 2009 - including giving up two runs in a three-inning relief appearance against Philadelphia - before shoulder surgery kept him out of the majors for more than two years.
"For me, it means a lot because it has been two years, and it's not a short time," Wang told the Nationals' official website after Tuesday's win. "I just wanted to pitch well, help the team out. I really appreciate all my teammates."
He'll likely be even happier if his teammates can provide some offense. The Nationals have averaged 3.0 runs over their last six games while striking out 57 times.
Jayson Werth, who left Philadelphia for a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals last offseason, is hitting .225 in 11 meetings against his former team. He's batting .212 during a 10-game road trip for Washington, which concludes Sunday with the Nationals having a chance to go 5-5.
The Phillies have won eight of the last nine meetings between these clubs in Philadelphia.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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