Ryan Howard is a big reason why the Philadelphia Phillies are turning things around, but their rotation is also helping.
Howard looks to continue his offensive resurgence while Jerome Williams goes for his first road victory Thursday against the Colorado Rockies in the finale of a four-game set.
Philadelphia (18-24) had a .229 average while scoring 2.8 runs per game and owned the worst record in baseball following a 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh on May 12. The Phillies, though, have since won seven of eight games, batting .293 and averaging 4.6 runs.
Howard has keyed the turnaround, hitting .444 with two homers, three doubles and five RBIs in the past seven games. He batted .211 through the first 31 games as he was the subject of trade rumors with Philadelphia rebuilding.
"I'm not really doing a whole lot different from the first month," said Howard, hitting .328 with four homers and 10 RBIs in May. "I'm just finding some real estate out there."
He was a triple shy of the cycle Tuesday, including a towering solo homer as the Phillies won 4-2 at Colorado (14-23) after their season-high six-game winning streak ended with a 6-5 loss a day earlier.
"It just looks like he's real comfortable at home plate and getting really good contact on his pitches," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "That ball was hit a long way. With these conditions, that ball was crushed."
Howard is hitting .412 over his last eight games at Coors Field.
Pitching has also been vital for Philadelphia, as the starters have combined for a 1.43 ERA and 6-0 record in the past eight games. They have nine walks and 39 strikeouts in that span.
The worst performance in that span came from Williams (3-3, 5.02 ERA) even though he won, yielding three runs - two earned - and seven hits in five innings of Saturday's 7-5 home win over Arizona. However, he's 0-2 with an 8.16 ERA over three starts on the road, failing to reach the sixth inning in any of them.
The right-hander is facing the Rockies for the first time since a relief appearance with San Francisco in 2005.
The Rockies, losers of seven of eight at home, are turning to Jorge De La Rosa (1-2, 6.56), who is 45-15 with a 4.16 ERA in 84 games at Coors and holds the record for the most wins there. However, he's been dreadful in Colorado this year, going 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in three starts - all Rockies losses.
He's trying to shake off any lingering effects of a groin injury suffered in Saturday's 7-1 road victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Just don't try to do too much," De La Rosa told MLB's official website. "If you do too much, it's probably going to be worse."
De La Rosa, though, was superb before being forced to leave Saturday, allowing two hits in 7 1-3 scoreless innings and lowering his ERA by three runs in by far his best performance of the season.
"The guy's a great pitcher, and if we're going to do something special, he'll have to be a big part of it," right fielder Carlos Gonzalez said.
De La Rosa has a 1.77 ERA in his last three matchups with the Phillies - all in Philadelphia - and won the last two.