Like sand through an hourglass, so go the Philadelphia Phillies' chances of reaching the postseason.
The first half of the 2012 season comes to a close for both the Phillies and Atlanta Braves Sunday afternoon when the clubs complete a 3-game set at Citizens Bank Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. (ET) with TBS providing the national broadcast. A pair of young right-handers will perform the initial mound duties as Jair Jurrjens gets the ball for the Braves against Vance Worley of the Phils.
Just as time is starting to run out on their playoff hopes, so are the excuses for why the Phillies might fall short despite entering the season as prohibitive -185 favorites to win the NL East and +170 chalk to take the NL pennant. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are both off the DL after missing most of the first half of the season with assorted injuries, and ace Roy Halladay should rejoin the rotation within the next week or so.
Howard made his season debut in a 5-0 loss to the Braves in the series opener and stroked a pair of hits including a double. As much as the Phillies missed both him and Utley the first three months, the real problem has been the bullpen which reared its ugly head once again in Friday's loss by allowing all five Atlanta runs after the game was scoreless through seven innings.
Philadelphia relievers rank 29th in the majors with a 4.84 ERA and had blown 12 of 30 save opportunities entering Saturday night's tilt that was still pending. The contest was a toss-up on the money line and carried a 9-run total that leaned 'under' at the majority of books monitored by Don Best's Pro Odds.
Worley will be trying to bounce back from one of the worst starts of his young career when he walks to the mound on Sunday. The Mets reached him for six runs on 10 hits in four short innings last Tuesday in New York, and it marked Philly's fifth loss in six starts since Worley returned from his own DL stint in early June. He will be facing the Braves for the first time in 2012, and won his only start vs. them in 2011.
Jurrjens will also be facing the Phils for the first time this season and won both of his 2011 assignments against them. He had severe command problems in April when he walked 10 in 16-1/3 innings, but his time spent in the minors seems to have corrected that problem with Jurrjens issuing just four free passes in 13-1/3 innings since returning to the big league club.
Friday's victory for Atlanta evened the season series between the two clubs at two wins apiece. Three of the first four matchups stayed 'under' the total.
Reeling Rangers Send Oswalt To Mound Vs. Twins
The Texas Rangers will turn to veteran Roy Oswalt in hopes of heading into the all-star break on a winning note when they close their home set with the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. Minnesota counters with rookie Cole De Vries in the 7:05 p.m. (ET) start.
Minnesota's 5-1 upset Friday night marked the fifth straight loss for Texas who was a $1.60 favorite in the contest. The Rangers were even heavier favorites for Saturday's tilt at -180 with Derek Holland making his first start in over a month following time on the DL due to a sore left shoulder.
Oswalt is coming off a pounding by the White Sox in Chicago on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed 13 hits in his second consecutive outing, and three of them left the yard as the Pale Hose plated 11 (9 earned) in chasing Oswalt before he could get through the fifth inning. Following an impressive debut against the Rockies on June 22, Oswalt has surrendered 26 hits and 14 earned runs in 10-2/3 innings his last two assignments.
De Vries, an undrafted free agent and Minnesota native, was used in relief on Wednesday after making four starts for the Twins previously. He was used primarily in relief the past two minor league seasons before being shifted to the rotation this year at Triple-A Rochester.
The win on Friday stopped the Twins' 4-game skid against the Rangers that included being swept at home back in mid-April. Entering Saturday, all four games between the clubs this season failed to reach the total.