Phillies-Astros Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been swept in a series of

three games or more in over a year. Given their success this

season, it seems unlikely that the team to do it would be the worst

in the majors.

Then again, the Houston Astros were the last club to accomplish

the feat.

The Phillies attempt to avoid a sweep and clinch a playoff berth

with a victory Wednesday in Houston.

Philadelphia (94-51) has lost three straight for the first time

since early June, getting outscored 10-3 in the first two against

the Astros.

The Phillies, who also would secure a spot in the postseason

Wednesday with a St. Louis loss in Pittsburgh, haven’t been swept

in a series of three-plus games since Aug. 23-26, 2010, when

Houston took all four matchups at Citizens Bank Park.

Manager Charlie Manuel hopes his team can clean up its play

prior to the postseason.

“We talk all year long about where we want to go, and that’s to

the World Series and win it,” Manuel said. “We’re sitting in a

(heck) of a position, and when we come out and play kind of sloppy

and we don’t have a lot of life and stuff like that, we have to

play better than that.”

Having Roy Halladay (17-5, 2.44 ERA) on the mound may prove to

be the difference in preventing another defeat.

Halladay is 8-2 following a Phillies loss this season. He’s 2-0

with a 1.73 ERA in his last four starts, allowing one run in eight

innings of a 5-3 victory over Milwaukee on Friday, and he hasn’t

lost on the road since July 18 in Chicago, going 4-0 with a 2.29

ERA in six starts since.

Overall, the right-hander is 9-3 in 15 starts away from home

with a 2.55 ERA, which ranks fourth in the majors.

Halladay’s only career start in Houston was April 11, 2010, when

he allowed an unearned run while throwing a complete game in a 2-1

victory over current teammate Roy Oswalt. He’s 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA

in three career outings against the Astros, most recently giving up

one run in six innings before Philadelphia rallied late for a 5-4

opening day win April 1.

The veteran will look for some help from a struggling offense,

which has scored five total runs during Philadelphia’s skid.

Former Astro Hunter Pence hit his 20th homer in the fourth

inning Tuesday and Carlos Ruiz added a solo shot in the ninth, but

the Phillies mustered only three other hits in a 5-2 loss.

Ryan Howard went 0 for 3 and is 3 for 19 with eight strikeouts

over his last six games, though two of those hits were homers.

He’s 0 for 7 in the first two games of this series against

Houston (51-97), which got a victory for a former Phillie for the

second consecutive night. J.A. Happ followed a solid outing from

Brett Myers on Monday.

With the back-to-back wins, the Astros have delayed losing a

team-record 98th game, and they’ll look to do it again when Bud

Norris (6-9, 3.78) takes the hill Wednesday.

Norris hopes to build off his most recent start Friday, when he

allowed three runs – two earned – in seven innings of Houston’s

4-3, 11-inning loss to Washington.

The right-hander was roughed up in his lone start against

Philadelphia this season, allowing five runs in four innings of a

7-3 loss April 3.

Carlos Lee went 1 for 4 on Tuesday and has reached base safely

in 22 straight games, hitting .388 in that stretch.