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PHI@HOU: Halladay strikes out seven over six innings

On the edge of the National League Wild Card race with 11 games to play, every game is essentially a must-win for the Phillies. They enter Saturday three games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card, one of three teams within three games of the final playoff spot in the National League.

The Braves, while not quite in the fight for their postseason lives, are trying to wrap up a playoff spot of their own. Atlanta is 5 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East but has a commanding lead in the Wild Card. Its magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five.

With opportunities to make up ground disappearing, the two division rivals will have a lot on the line when they continue their three-game series Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Right-hander Roy Halladay, who has 198 career wins, will start for the Phillies. He will be looking to extend Philadelphia's home winning streak to nine games and snap a streak of poor starts against the Braves this season. In three starts against Atlanta this year, Halladay has allowed 15 runs on 25 hits in 16 innings.

With one of their aces on the mound, all the Phillies can do is try to win and continue to hang in the Wild Card race.

"It's up to us to keep playing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's all we can do. Play each game every day, try to win, see what happens. We're going to have to get some help. Somebody's got to beat the Cardinals. And Dodgers. And Milwaukee."

The Braves, who control their own destiny, will turn to left-hander Mike Minor. He has been one of their best pitchers in the second half of the season, especially in September. In three starts this month, Minor has allowed one run in 18 2/3 innings and struck out 18 batters.

His last start came in a Sunday-night showdown against the Nationals. Minor allowed one run in six innings, and the Braves won, 5-1.

"I don't know if he's pitched Sunday night, 8 o'clock game on national television against the first place division rival, but he did a great job," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He was really good."

Braves: Simmons expected to return Saturday
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was out of the lineup for the Braves' 6-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night. It was the third straight game he has missed since jamming his shoulder Monday against the Marlins.

Simmons has been replaced in the lineup by utility player Martin Prado. Gonzalez said he expects Simmons to return to the lineup Saturday afternoon.

Simmons is hitting .293 with a .345 on-base percentage in 39 games as a rookie.

Phillies: Howard nears milestone home run
With a solo home run in the fourth inning Friday night, first baseman Ryan Howard moved within one home run of the 300th of his career. Howard's next home run will make him just the second Phillie to hit 300, joining Hall of Famer third baseman Mike Schmidt (548).

Howard ranks 23rd among active players on the career home run list. He is hitting .228 with 13 home runs in 65 games since coming back from a torn ACL that cost him the first three months of the season.

Worth noting
• Of Braves third baseman Chipper Jones' 468 career home runs, 49 have come against the Phillies. That is tied with his 49 home runs against the Mets for his personal best against any opponent.

• Howard is 5-for-12 with two home runs against Minor in his career.

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