The Philadelphia Phillies are on the verge of their longest losing streak at Citizens Bank Park in nearly a year. Sending ace Roy Halladay to the mound seems likely to prevent it.
The Phillies look to win a 10th consecutive home start by Halladay when they open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.Philadelphia (65-39) has dropped three of four as host, scoring one run in each of the last two games -- both defeats. The Phillies mustered six hits in Thursday's 4-1 loss to San Francisco, going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.A defeat Friday would give them their longest home slide since dropping four straight Aug. 23-26, but Philadelphia -- 38-18 at home -- is relying on another strong performance from Halladay (12-4, 2.55 ERA).The right-hander is 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 12 home starts, winning each of his last six decisions behind a 2.22 ERA in nine games -- all wins for the Phillies.Halladay kept that string going Sunday, yielding three runs -- two earned -- with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-3 victory over San Diego. That came six days after heat and humidity in Chicago forced him to exit a 6-1 loss after four-plus innings for his shortest outing of the season.The Phillies still own the best record in the majors, and Halladay is bidding to become the NL's first 13-game winner, but he feels they can get better."We've done a lot of things right, but I know every time you go out, even as a pitcher, you feel like there's room for improvement," he said.Halladay is 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in four career meetings with the Pirates (54-49). He was credited with a 7-3 win on June 5 after allowing two runs in seven innings as the Phillies avoided a three-game sweep.Philadelphia has lost six of eight to Pittsburgh, but seven of those games have been on the road. The Phillies are 11-2 in the past 13 meetings at Citizens Bank Park.While Philadelphia leads the NL East by five games over Atlanta, the Pirates are percentage points ahead of St. Louis for second in the Central, 1 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee.They gained a split of a four-game series with the Braves by winning 5-2 on Thursday.Charlie Morton (8-5, 3.69) gets the ball Friday, and will try to beat the Phillies again. He yielded two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 win June 4 after going 0-2 with a 9.75 ERA in three previous starts against Philadelphia.The right-hander is thriving on the road, going 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA in eight starts. A change in his windup that has him resembling Halladay may be playing a part."I had an 8 ERA (actually 7.57) last year, and I'm pitching better," Morton told MLB.com. "People want to make it sound like it's a major overhaul. The arm angle is the biggest thing. We didn't do that to look like Halladay."I like watching (Halladay) pitch. I think watching him has really helped me a lot. I've admired what he has done in his career, too. But for me to say that I spent all offseason trying to overhaul my delivery to look like him is blown out of proportion a little bit."Andrew McCutchen may be back in the No. 3 spot in the order after collecting three hits -- including a home run -- Thursday, when he moved up from the cleanup spot to switch places with Neil Walker. He's 6 for 12 with three RBIs in three games against Philadelphia this year.