August 04, 2014

After four arduous games at the plate, the Philadelphia Phillies finally found some offense and are a game away from completing their third home sweep of the season.

They'll try to do so Thursday night against the Houston Astros while handing the ball to a starting pitcher riding plenty of confidence.

Philadelphia (51-63), winner of five of six at Citizens Bank Park, had scored four runs in four games before Wednesday's 10-3 victory over Houston (47-67). It has also defeated the Astros in seven straight home contests dating to April 1, 2011.

The top-five batters in the Phillies' lineup - Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd - combined to go 11 for 21.

"It makes a big difference all the way around," Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said. "That becomes contagious."

Revere went 4 for 5 and is batting .397 over 14 games to boost his average to .309, the highest it's been since entering April 29 at .312.

The offense will try to string together strong efforts for Roberto Hernandez, though he hasn't needed much lately.

Hernandez (6-8, 3.87 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and .170 opponents' average over his last four starts. He earned the victory Friday at Washington, winning 2-1 after surrendering an unearned run and five hits over eight innings.

"He was aggressive in the strike zone and stayed ahead of the hitters," Sandberg said.

He faced Houston twice a season ago, compiling a 1-1 record and 4.50 ERA. Jason Castro is 3 for 6 off Hernandez while Chris Carter, who is batting .313 over his last 25 games, is 1 for 3 with a home run.

Should Hernandez falter, Philadelphia's bullpen has been nearly unhittable in the series, allowing just two hits while striking out 16 in 10 2-3 scoreless innings.

Hernandez will be opposed by Collin McHugh, who has received six runs of support over his last 40 2-3 innings.

McHugh (4-9, 3.32) hasn't won in over two months, going 0-6 with a 4.20 ERA in eight starts since beating the Los Angeles Angels on June 3, but he probably deserved better his last time out. The right-hander wasn't thrilled with his stuff but surrendered just one run and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of Friday's 3-1 home win over Toronto.

"It wasn't great today as far as command goes," McHugh told MLB's official website. "I got a couple of big strikeouts with it, but for the most part it was fastball command and cutters up and in to the lefties, and trying to keep them off-balance all night."

Much of his best work, though, has come on the road with a 2-3 record and 1.96 ERA in seven starts.

Houston can't say the same about the club as a whole with four straight losses away from Minute Maid Park and a 6-16 mark since June 10 after posting a reasonable 15-18 road record until that point.

They were hoping George Springer, on the disabled list since July 20 with a strained quad, could return Thursday after completing a three-game rehab assignment. The rookie outfielder, however, was lifted from Wednesday's game with Single-A Quad Cities after feeling a pull, and was sent back to Houston to be re-evaluated.

The Phillies could have Domonic Brown back in the lineup. Brown, slowed by an infection in his throat, has been limited to pinch-hit duties since last appearing in the lineup on July 29.

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