By Barry Donovan
Game 3 in the Chad Billingsley Rehab Tour is tonight as the Phillies open a weekend set with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately, his mound opponent will be Chase Anderson, one of the hottest hurlers in the National League.
Billingsley has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss most of 2013 and all of ’14.
The right-hander has allowed five earned runs over five innings in each of his first two outings, falling 9-0 to Atlanta on May 5 and 7-4 to the New York Mets on Sunday. He hit his third career home run against the Mets.
”I had a little better control of my fastball,” said Billingsley, whose last win came April 10, 2013. ”I was more confident with my pitches, being able to locate. I felt good. Obviously, the results aren’t there. Go back to work and keep improving.”
Billingsley has made 25 starts against Arizona, none since 2012. Aaron Hill, who is batting .480 over his last eight, is 3 for 9 with two doubles and a homer off Billingsley.
Anderson continues to be the Diamondbacks’ most consistent starter, but his solid efforts haven’t led to victories for his club.
Anderson (0-1, 2.97 ERA) has pitched at least six innings while allowing two runs or fewer four times, including his last two starts. He tossed six scoreless innings of Arizona’s 1-0, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 3 before giving up one run in seven innings of the Diamondbacks’ 6-4 defeat in 12 to San Diego on Saturday.
Manager Chip Hale decided to remove Anderson after 93 pitches against the Padres, and the bullpen promptly blew the 2-1 lead Anderson held when he left. Arizona (15-18) has scored just 10 runs in Anderson’s 36 1-3 innings, winning only his season debut against the Dodgers on April 10 in 10 innings.
“I stuck to my game plan, got early outs and was able to go deep in the game,” said Anderson, who also had his first career RBI against the Padres. “As a starting pitcher, that’s what you want to do (to) give your team a chance to win the game.”
The Phillies (13-23) have scored the fewest runs in the majors, and their .232 average ranks near the bottom. But they’ve pushed enough across the plate while winning the last two, snapping a four-game skid with a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday before taking the series finale 4-2.
Freddy Galvis added three hits Thursday to improve his average to .440 over his last seven. Ryan Howard, who went 1 for 15 over his previous five, finished 3 for 4 with a homer.
“He’s squaring up the ball much better and I think gaining confidence goes with that,” manager Ryne Sandberg said of Howard. “I think when a player like Ryan can get a hot, the rest of the lineup can kind of settle in and chip away.”