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Surging Rockies look to keep Phillies down

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies are 4-1 on a six-game homestand, which they will try to complete Sunday with a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies, meanwhile, will be trying to break a five-game losing streak -- all on their eight-game road trip.
Aaron Nola (8-7, 3.16 ERA), who is Philadelphia's best starter, will take the mound and be opposed by Jeff Hoffman (6-3, 5.38).

Nola will be making his 50th career start but his first against the Rockies, meaning he will confront Nolan Arenado for the first time.

Arenado was named National League Player of the Month for July. For the season, Arenado, who has hit safely in seven straight games -- one shy of tying his season high, is hitting .315 with 34 doubles, 25 home runs and a major league leading 97 RBI. Arenado has led the majors in the latter caregory each of the past two seasons.

In 19 games since the All-Star break, Arenado is hitting .375 with eight homers and 27 RBI.

"I honestly don't feel comfortable saying I've put it all together," Arenado said. "I got two months left. There's still a lot of things I can do, a lot of damage to be done and a lot of plays I could be making. But I feel really good right now."

Hoffman was not involved in the decision Tuesday when the Rockies beat the New York Mets 5-4 on a walk-off single by Arenado after Hoffman allowed two runs and five hits in six innings with three walks and five strikeouts.

Hoffman is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in one start against the Phillies, a May 22 outing when he allowed one run and three hits in seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.

The right-handed Hoffman has fared much better against left-handed hitters. They're hitting .229 with a .660 OPS in 152 plate appearances against him. Right-handed hitters are batting .302 with an .867 OPS in 175 plate appearances against Hoffman.

The Phillies are 8-9 in starts by Nola. He took the loss Tuesday at the Los Angeles Angels, despite giving up only two runs in six innings as the Phillies fell 7-1.

Nola has allowed two or fewer runs in eight straight starts, going 5-2 with a 1.66 ERA in those outings with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. During that span, Nola has limited opposing hitters to a .205 average and a .575 OPS.

"His command's been better," Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said. "He's kept the ball lower with all pitches. (Gone) up by design. The quality of his secondary pitches has gotten better as well."

Nola didn't pitch after July 28 last year because of a right elbow strain and finished the 2016 season with 20 starts and 111 innings. With an eye toward his future health, Nola took a preventive measure with his delivery and brought it to spring training.

"He's got a higher leg kick now," McClure said. "He came up with that based on getting hurt last year.

"He felt that by having a higher leg kick in the windup took stress off his arm. In doing that, his control suffered a little bit in the beginning. But it's obviously smoothed out since then."

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