The Phillies return to St. Louis for a three game weekend series starting tonight. The NL Central has been tough for the Phils; they’re 4-9 against the division so far having already faced the other three teams comprising the Central.
The Cards have hit a rough patch recently going 3-12 in their last 15. They have lost seven in a row heading into tonight’s match up but those seven games were all on the road and they’re decisively better at Busch Stadium. They’re only one game under .500 with a -1 run differential when playing on home turf.
What to Expect:
The Cards don’t hit a lot of home runs, an area of particular trouble for Phils pitching. They have the third least amount of HRs in the NL. The Braves had the fourth least and the Phils, for the most part, were able to keep them in the yard. All around, though, the Cardinals are about a league average offensive team. Phils pitching should watch out for first pitch swinging however as the Cards are third in the NL at swinging percentage of first pitch at 30.9%.
Pitching has been the Cards strong suit as they carry the sixth-best staff ERA in the league. They’ve faltered in that area a bit lately, though, as over the seven-game losing streak the rotation has had a 7.18 ERA. Luckily, perhaps, the Phils will not see Mike Leake in this series. Leake is third in the NL in ERA.
The Cardinals have not been good against the NL East. They were swept by both the Braves and the Marlins already this season. More luck for the Phils is that the Cards just sent down known-destroyer of Phillies pitching Randal Grichuk, who in 10 games against the Phillies has five home runs, two doubles and a 1.120 OPS. (Seriously, what were they thinking by sending him down immediately before the Phillies series?).
Hellickson walked four batters and gave up four hits in 5.1 innings in his last start, although despite that performance he was ultimately undone by a throwing error on a dead duck double play ball. He did commit the cardinal sin of walking in a run, though. The Phillies need Hellickson to get back on track prior to the trade deadline and tonight would be a perfect place to start.
For his part, Wacha started the season very good but the wheels have fallen off lately. He’s given up 15 earned runs and only pitched 11.1 innings in his last three starts. Franco has had some success off of Wacha (3 for 7 with two doubles) as has Kendrick (4 for 8, 1 BB, 1 HR).
Pivetta needs to find whatever he had in the minors and bring it with him to the majors. He was able to keep the walks to a minimum before being called up but it’s been an issue for him in the majors. In 32 innings pitched at triple-A this year he’s walked three batters, while in 24 major league innings he’s walked 12. Not allowing free passes will help with his enormous 1.808 WHIP and allow him to at least have a chance at success.
Martinez has been stellar for the Cards. He’s among the top-20 in nearly every major pitching category. The Phils offense will have its work cut out for it.
Nola is working his way back to his starts being “Win Day” for the Fightins’ and that’s excellent news. You couldn’t have asked for much more than he gave in his last outing against the Braves: five hits, one run and one walk in eight innings. He’s back to getting batters to swing at balls and to take strikes.
Wainwright is coming off his worst start in years where he allowed nine runs in 3.2 innings. Hopefully the Phils can keep him on that trajectory and not the one he was on leading up to it where he allowed only one earned in 26 innings in four games. Freddy Galvis (5 for 12, 2 2B, 1 HR), Odubel Herrera (3 for 6, 1 HR) and Daniel Nava (3 for 7, 1 HR) have all had some success against the veteran right-hander