Sizzling Dodgers head for series with Phillies

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (left), high-fives Adrian Gonzalez, who won Wednesday's game. MARK J. TERRILL / AP
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (left), high-fives Adrian Gonzalez, who won Wednesday's game. MARK J. TERRILL / AP
Posted: August 17, 2013

The Phillies, losers of 19 of their last 23 games, solemnly boarded a charter plane in the wee hours Thursday morning. When asked about the weekend's challenge, their manager insisted: "We're definitely capable."

Across the country, the Dodgers staged a dramatic comeback and later won in extra innings for the 40th time in 48 games. "I can't explain what's happening here," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said. "But it's fun."

The Phillies are all that stand between Los Angeles and the best stretch of baseball since World War II. If the Dodgers win their next two games, they will equal the 1942 Cardinals' run of 42-8. Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will start those games at Citizens Bank Park.

Charlie Manuel's team has nothing to lose in the three-game series, and losing is a skill the Phillies have perfected in recent weeks. They have failed in all aspects of the game, most glaringly on the mound.

"If we get a well-pitched game and hold them early, we can still win some games," Manuel said. "As a matter of fact, we should win some games. If our starting pitching gets going right, I think we are very capable of winning some games."

That pitching has disappeared since the all-star break. Phillies starters have a 6.48 ERA in those 24 games. Remove Cole Hamels, the lone constant in the rotation, and the number jumps to an unsightly 8.19 in 19 games.

One member of the staff, John Lannan, may have thrown his final pitch with the organization Wednesday. He was removed after 11/3 innings with a left-knee injury. The lefthander said there is a lingering structural problem. Surgery may be required.

Tyler Cloyd is likeliest to replace Lannan on Tuesday, his next turn. Cloyd has a 1.33 ERA in his last seven starts in triple A. He threw a 116-pitch, complete-game victory Wednesday for Lehigh Valley.

Los Angeles, a team invigorated by its wunderkind Yasiel Puig, has overcome the obstacle of a slow start. The Dodgers will look across the diamond Friday and see a team that takes comfort in moral triumphs.

"In the last week or so, I've never questioned our guys not coming to play," Manuel said. "When the game starts, we're definitely up and ready, and we want to play. We're starting to do some things well. That's the way you get consistent. That's the way you get better. We'll just keep staying at it."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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