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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, May 17th (All times Eastern)

Philadelphia Phillies (19-19) at Chicago Cubs (15-22), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia - Roy Halladay (3-3, 3.20) Chicago - Chris Volstad (0-5, 6.92)

(Sports Network) - Roy Halladay hasn't been a Phillie for very long, but the way his tenure with the club started it was tough to imagine him ever going winless over five starts.

First-year Cubs hurler Chris Volstad knows personally that things could be a lot worse.

Halladay looks to avoid a fourth straight losing decision and Volstad tries to pick up his first victory since July of last year as Philadelphia wraps up a two-game series in Chicago.

Halladay, who turned 35 on Monday, went 21-10 with a 2.44 earned run average in his first season in Philadelphia in 2010 to win the National League Cy Young Award, then picked up another 19 victories with a 2.35 ERA last year.

The right-hander then won his first three outings of 2012 with a 1.17 ERA, but is 0-3 in five starts since his last win on April 16. He has failed to pitch at least seven innings only once this season, an outing in Atlanta on May 2 in which he allowed eight runs over 5 1/3 frames of a 15-13 no-decision, while the Phillies have scored just four runs over the other four games of his winless drought.

Halladay allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out seven on Saturday versus the Padres, but lost a 2-1 decision.

"My job is to keep the game close and give us a chance," said Halladay in regards to his winless stretch, which is his longest over his time with the Phillies. "You don't have a lot of control over wins and losses. Your control is over making pitches."

Halladay dropped a 5-1 decision to the visiting Cubs on April 27, giving up three runs over seven innings to fall to 1-5 with a 3.75 ERA in six career meetings with the club.

While it has been a month since Halladay last won, Volstad is trying to pick up his first victory since July 10. He is winless in his last 18 starts, dropping 10 straight decisions in that span. That includes an 0-5 mark and 6.92 ERA over his first seven outings with the Cubs after being acquired this offseason in a deal that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins.

The 25-year-old was undone by one inning on Saturday versus the Brewers. He allowed just four hits over five scoreless frames, but was charged with six runs in the sixth inning to take a loss.

"That's the way it's been for every game," Volstad said on Chicago's official website. "I've done so well except for one inning. It's hard to pinpoint the difference. I've got to keep working."

Volstad got a no-decision in Philadelphia on April 30, yielding four runs over six innings. He is 2-5 with a 5.89 ERA in 13 career starts against the Phillies.

Philadelphia extended its season-high winning streak to four straight games, breaking open Wednesday's opener late en route to a 9-2 victory.

Carlos Ruiz snapped a 2-2 tie with an eighth-inning solo homer before the Phils added six insurance runs in the ninth. Hector Luna highlighted that frame with his first career grand slam.

Jose Contreras pitched a perfect seventh -- part of a string of 17 consecutive batters retired by Philadelphia pitching -- to earn his first victory since August 1, 2010, while Kyle Kendrick allowed two runs -- one earned -- over six innings in a spot start for the injured Vance Worley.

"You just have to be prepared," Kendrick said of his use as a spot-starter. "This is what I've done last year. Whenever you get the call, you have to be ready to go. The role can be tough sometimes, but once you're out there, pitching's pitching."

Alfonso Soriano, who hit his first homer of the year in Tuesday's loss to the Cardinals, accounted for both Chicago runs with a two-run blast, while Shawn Camp (2-2) took the loss in relief, the Cubs' fourth in six games.

"We have guys pitching in roles they probably shouldn't be pitching in," Cubs manager Sveum said. "It's tough, they've never had to do this before. It's not the easiest thing to do."

The Phillies and Cubs split four meetings in Philadelphia back on April 27-30, but the Phils have still won eight of the last 11 encounters.

05/17 10:47:36 ET