(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies had an up-and-down first half, and it was no different for the club over the season's final week before the All-Star break.
They do come out of the hiatus with some momentum, and the Phillies will look to extend that run versus a Chicago Cubs team that has a lot of work to do in the second half, beginning with tonight's opener of a four-game series at Wrigley Field.
Philadelphia has won each of the last three National League East titles and the last two NL pennants, but comes out of the break trailing first-place Atlanta by 4 1/2 games in the division standings. The Phillies lost two of three to the Braves to begin last week, but then swept the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds in four games to close out the first half.
The Phils took the first three games of the set in extra innings, the first two on walk-off homers before a 1-0 triumph on Saturday. They then claimed Sunday's finale again by a 1-0 margin and will try to match their longest winning streak of the season, set from April 9-14, tonight.
"To take four from a very, very good team is a good positive," said Sunday's winning pitcher Cole Hamels, who threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
Philadelphia comes out of the break 11th in the NL with a .255 team batting average, but is sixth overall with a collective 3.92 earned run average
Ryan Howard leads the Phillies with 17 homers and 65 RBI and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout as the NL's designated hitter in Tuesday's All-Star Game, won 3-1 by the Senior Circuit. Roy Halladay, who won 10 games and posted a 2.19 ERA in 19 first-half starts for the Phillies, recorded a pair of outs in the sixth inning and allowed two hits while fanning a batter.
Chase Utley was voted to start the game at second base, but he missed the contest due to right thumb surgery. Philadelphia also opens the second half without third baseman Placido Polanco due to a left elbow injury.
Jamie Moyer lost the Phillies' finale with the Braves on July 7 and will seek to snap a two-start slide tonight. The 47-year-old had won three starts in a row prior to his skid and posted a 1.86 ERA in four outings before getting tagged for seven runs on seven hits and three homers over 5 1/3 innings versus Atlanta. It marked just the second time in eight starts that Moyer allowed more than two runs and dropped the lefty to 9-8 with a 4.51 ERA.
Moyer, who was drafted by the Cubs way back in 1984, lost to Chicago on May 19 despite yielding just two runs on four hits over seven innings and is 3-2 with a 4.27 ERA in eight career starts versus the Cubs.
Chicago resumes play 11 games under .500 (39-50) and 9 1/2 games back of the Reds in the NL Central. The Cubs, who begin a 10-game homestand tonight, looked to have picked up some momentum when they scored 23 runs in sweeping a three-game set with Arizona from July 5-7, but they then lost three of four to the Dodgers. Chicago was shut out, 7-0, in Sunday's finale, not surprising given the club is 14th in the NL with 359 runs scored.
Center fielder Marlon Byrd was the Cubs' lone All-Star representative, and he certainly had an impact in the NL's win. He walked in the seventh inning and scored on Brian McCann's three-run double before recording the game's first outfield forceout since 1957 when he gunned down Boston's David Ortiz at second base in the ninth inning after John Buck's fly ball dropped in front of him in right.
Byrd leads Chicago with a .317 batting average and is hitting .412 (14-for-34) with five RBI over his last nine games, but the former Phillie is hitting just .210 in 22 games against his old club.
Chicago will need Derrek Lee (.233) and Aramis Ramirez (.207) to get on track on the second half, though Ramirez hit .429 (12-for-28) with four homers and nine RBI over his last seven games before the break.
That could be good news for Ryan Dempster, who alternated wins and losses over his final five starts before break. The right-hander did beat Arizona on July 7 despite his shortest outing of the season, a five-inning stint in which he gave up three runs on eight hits.
Dempster hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last seven starts and is 7-7 with a 3.61 ERA on the season. The 33-year-old got a no- decision versus the Phillies on May 20, giving up four runs over six innings while serving up homers to Utley and Jimmy Rollins. In 22 career outings versus Philadelphia, including 15 starts, Dempster is 4-4 with a pair of saves and a 5.05 ERA.
The Phillies and Cubs split a two-game set in Philadelphia from May 19-20, giving the Phils a victory in eight of the past 10 meetings between the teams. They have also won five in a row at Wrigley Field, sweeping a three-game set there last season.