for this game

Halladay goes for Phils in opener with Rangers

May 20, 2011 - 2:52 PM (Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers nearly met in last year's World Series. With both teams currently occupying first place in their respective divisions, they would love for this interleague series to serve as a preview of this season's Fall Classic.

Philadelphia plays host to Texas for the first time in six years this evening with the opener of a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park.

Sparked by an 11-game winning streak during interleague play from June 12-24 and later the acquisition of pitcher Cliff Lee from Seattle, the Rangers won the American League West by nine games before getting past the Rays and Yankees to reach the World Series. However, they were bested in five games by the Giants, who had knocked off the two-time defending National League Champion Phillies in six games in the NLCS.

Of course, the Rangers were unable to hold on to Lee, who signed with the Phillies as a free agent and will face his former club in Saturday's matchup.

Taking the hill one day ahead of Lee will be Roy Halladay, who hopes to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time since June of last year against an American League club he has historically struggled against.

Even though he has pitched consecutive eight-inning complete games, Halladay has lost in Florida and Atlanta to fall to 5-3 with a 2.21 earned run average in nine starts. He has allowed just five runs in that span, but the Phillies have scored just three.

The 34-year-old right-hander has pitched at least seven innings in seven of his nine starts and owns four complete games so far this season.

Halladay, the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner, may have trouble getting on track versus the Rangers. The former Blue Jay is 7-7 in 20 career games against them and his 5.36 ERA versus Texas is his highest against any American League club.

The Phillies themselves have also struggled during interleague play as they are 40-59 versus the AL in six seasons under Charlie Manuel and their 10-8 mark last year was their first winning since in interleague play since 2007.

The Rangers, meanwhile, went 14-4 versus the NL a season ago, including that aforementioned winning streak.

Texas took two of three from the Phillies in the last meeting between the teams in 2008, three years after the Phils swept a three-game home set over the Rangers. Philadelphia will hope for a repeat of that series as they have lost five of their last six games heading into this series.

After snapping a four-game slide on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over the Rockies, Colorado blasted Philadelphia, 7-1, behind three homers from Jason Giambi, who drove in all seven runs for the Rockies.

Starter Joe Blanton was a late scratch for the Phillies due to soreness in his right elbow and Kyle Kendrick was slammed for five runs over just three innings in a spot start, yielding two of Giambi's homers.

"That's not where you want them. First one, it was supposed to be a fastball in and it missed down the middle. The second one was supposed to be away and it missed down the middle. Obviously, he's swinging well right now," Kendrick said about his two home run pitches to Giambi.

Philadelphia has been held to three runs or less in each of its last six games, but still leads the NL East by 1 1/2 games over Florida. However, both Blanton and outfielder Shane Victorino (strained right hamstring) are expected to be placed on the disabled list, joining the likes of Chase Utley, Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras. Victorino hasn't started since May 14, but did make a pinch-hit appearance on Wednesday.

Texas is also without two key outfielders in Nelson Cruz (strained right quad) and reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton (upper arm), who are both rehabbing in the minors and are expected back soon.

The Rangers are coming off Thursday's 2-1 setback to the Royals, their second loss in three games, as Kansas City won on Jeff Francoeur's walk-off RBI single.

Chris Davis had given the Rangers an early lead with a solo homer off Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar in the second inning, a lead that held until closer Neftali Feliz blew a save chance for a second straight game.

"[Hochevar] left one out over the plate and I was able to hit it through the wind," Davis said.

Adding injury to insult, the Rangers lost outfielder Endy Chavez in the fourth inning with hamstring tightness.

Texas, which leads Oakland by a game for the top spot in the AL West, hopes that starter C.J. Wilson can rebound from his shortest outing of the season in his first career start versus the Phillies, who he has faced twice before in relief.

Wilson lasted just five-plus innings versus the Angels on Sunday, getting charged with four runs -- two earned -- on six hits and four walks in a no- decision. The lefty has now walked nine over his last two starts after issuing just 13 in his first seven.

Wilson is 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA this year and 2-4 with a 4.37 ERA in 35 career interleague appearances. Only five of those have been starts for the 30-year- old.