(Sports Network) - An outstanding recent stretch has the Philadelphia Phillies in position for a possible fourth consecutive trip to the postseason. You can bet Brett Myers will be determined to stop that roll from continuing.
Myers will face his former team for the first time in an opposing uniform when the veteran hurler leads the Astros into Citizens Bank Park tonight for the opener of a four-game series with the red-hot Phillies.
A first-round selection by Philadelphia in the 1999 draft, Myers spent his first eight major league seasons with the Phillies and won 10 or more games five times during his tenure there. The team opted not to re-sign the right- hander following an injury-plagued 2009 campaign, however, with Myers instead inking a one-year deal with the Astros in January.
The move has paid dividends for Houston, as Myers has been both durable and consistent this season. The 30-year-old has posted a solid 3.11 earned run average over his 25 starts in 2010 and pitched at least six innings in every one of those outings, one shy of a club record set by Larry Dierker between June 20, 1969-April 17, 1970.
Myers was sharp once again in a home start against the New York Mets last Wednesday, yielding just two runs over seven frames in a no-decision. Five days earlier, he limited Pittsburgh to one run and struck out seven in seven innings despite not factoring in the final outcome of that contest as well.
During his time in Philadelphia, Myers compiled a 27-27 record with a 4.10 ERA in 96 appearances (67 starts) at Citizens Bank Park. He's just 2-7 on the road this year, however, and 11 of his 14 home runs allowed have come in visiting venues.
Myers will be taking on a Phillies squad that's won six of its last eight games and has amassed a stellar 19-4 record at home since July 8. The two-time reigning National League Champions are 4-2 thus far on a 10-game residency and come into this series off Sunday's 6-0 blanking of Washington.
A longtime Astro led the way for Philadelphia in yesterday's triumph, with ex- Houston ace Roy Oswalt surrendering just five hits and fanning eight Nationals hitters over the first seven innings. The three-time All-Star was making his fifth start since being acquired by the Astros in a blockbuster trade just prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
"My mechanics have been a lot better and the ball has been coming out cleaner than when I first got here," said Oswalt, who improved to 3-1 as a member of the Phillies. "The guys got me a few runs early and it makes things a lot easier on me when they do that."
Placido Polanco knocked in runs in both the first and third innings to stake Oswalt to an early lead and finished 2-for-3 for Philadelphia. Wilson Valdez added a two-RBI single later on before Raul Ibanez tacked on a two-run homer in the seventh to close out the scoring.
The win gives the Phillies a two-game advantage on both St. Louis and San Francisco for the lead in the NL Wild Card race, while the team remained 2 1/2 games back of first-place Atlanta in the NL East standings after the Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
Joe Blanton will attempt to keep Philadelphia winning when he opposes Myers in tonight's opener. The Phils have prevailed in four of the right-hander's last five starts, with Blanton having registered two victories and three no- decisions during that time period.
He was able to pick up a win in his last mound trip after holding San Francisco to two runs over 6 1/3 innings this past Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. The effort improved Blanton to 4-2 in 11 home starts this season.
The 29-year-old has also never lost in two previous encounters with the Astros, having gone 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in those games. The no-decision took place in Houston last September, with Blanton reached for three runs in six innings while matched up against Oswalt.
The Astros are in the midst of a 10-game road trip and dropped the first two tests of the trek before edging Florida by a 2-1 count on Sunday, with Hunter Pence's solo homer in the top of the eighth inning providing the difference.
Pence also drove in Houston's other run of the afternoon with a sacrifice fly that plated Michael Bourn, who collected two of the team's five hits for the game. His homer made a winner out of Wilton Lopez after the reliever tossed two scoreless innings upon taking over for starter Nelson Figueroa.
Figueroa, who began the season with the Phillies before being waived last month, gave up just one run on four hits and struck out seven over a six- inning, 98-pitch stint.
"If I throw 95 pitches that means I'm doing my job and keeping us in the ball game," Figueroa said afterward. "It was good to get rolling in the heat and try and make the innings as quick as possible."
Houston won six of eight meetings with the Phillies in 2009, but was swept by Philadelphia in a three-game set at Minute Maid Park back in April.