Doesn't get any easier

The Phillies departed after last night's loss to the Mets for Chicago, where the Cubs are waiting with baseball's best record at 83-50.

Chicago has won five in a row, eight of its last 10 and has an amazing 49-19 record at home. The Cubs have won nine straight series. It's the first time they have done that since 1907, when they took the first of their back-to-back titles.

Tonight, Cole Hamels (11-8, 3.20) faces the Cubs' Ryan Dempster (15-5, 2.85) in what should be a great pitching matchup. Hamels has won back-to-back starts for the first time since May 9-15. In those games, he allowed 12 hits and no walks in 15 innings and has a 1.80 earned run average. Dempster is 12-2, 2.66 in 16 home starts this season while holding opponents to a .209 batting average. In his last seven starts overall he's 5-1, 1.76. He's already matched his career high in wins (15-12 for Florida in 2001) .

Here are the pitching matchups for the rest of the weekend: Phillies RHP Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.03) vs. Cubs RHP Rich Harden (4-1, 1.47) tomorrow afternoon, RHP Brett Myers (7-10, 4.49) vs. LHP Ted Lilly (13-7, 4.23) Saturday afternoon and LHP Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.81) vs. RHP Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.53) Sunday afternoon.

The road trip continues with three in Washington, a day off Thursday and then three at Shea -- the Phillies' final trip to that ballpark -- concluding with a Sunday night ESPN game.

After that, the Phillies have home series against Florida and Milwaukee, a road trip to Atlanta and Florida and then close out the season with a homestand featuring Atlanta and Washington.

Twenty-nine games to go and plenty at stake. And it's not going to get an easier.


Rich Hofmann looks at what could be a tight race between the Phillies and the Mets coming down the stretch.

Also, remember that instant replay in baseball debuts on boundary calls with today's games, so the Phillies and Cubs go be the first guinea pigs for the new system.