After winning the first game of the series on Friday night, the Phillies lost the final two games of the series. They have lost 4 of the last 6 games against the Braves and are now 4-5 against them on the season. But despite the series loss, the Phillies are still just percentage points behind the Indians for the best record in baseball and hold a 2 game lead over the Marlins for the lead in the NL East. The Phillies are now 3-3 on their road trip and 4-5 during their tough 20 game stretch. They will now head to St. Louis for 2 games to end their 8 game road trip.
The Cardinals are coming off a 3 game sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds and are now 1.5 behind them for 1st place in the division. The Cards have played very well early in the season despite losing their “ace” Adam Wainwright for at least a year with Tommy John surgery. With Carpenter having a slow start, their rotation has been lead by Jaime Garcia and former Phillie Kyle Lohse. They currently lead the majors in runs scored, largely due the resurgence of free agent accusation Lance Berkman. Their lineup posses a lethal 3 headed monster with Pujols, Holliday and Berkman that can be difficult to contain.
Phillies: Ryan Howard
The Big Man went 2-4 with 2 RBI’s in the Phillies win on Friday night, and then went 0-8 as the Phillies lost the final two games of the series. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Howard’s production is needed if this Phillies team wants to score runs. So it must be good news for the Phillies and Howard that they are headed to his hometown and a team that he has crushed during his career. In just 38 career games vs. the Cardinals, Howard is batting .372 with 15 homeruns and 46 RBI’s! His numbers are even better at Busch stadium, in 21 games he is batting .388 with 8 homeruns and 31 RBI’s. He had seemed to thrive in his hometown and front of his family in the past, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would welcome the run support if he can continue that trend during this series.
Cardinals: Matt Holliday
Most of the talk around the Cardinals this season has been focus around the expiring contract of Pujols and the resurgence of previously thought to be washed up Lance Berkman. Despite missing a little more than a week at the beginning of the season due to an appendectomy, Holliday has had a very strong start to the season. He is batting .394 with 5 homeruns and 28 RBI’s in 33 games. Matt has also hit the Phillies well over his career, in 40 games he is batting .292 with 13 homeruns and 38 RBI’s. The Phillies have always tried to pitch around Pujols when they face him, and a hot hitting Holliday would make that either extremely difficult or very costly.
Monday May 16 7:05: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Jake Westbrook
Lee received as many runs in his last start than he did in his previous 3 combined. The bad news for him is that they scored the runs after he had left the game giving him a no decision . Lee is now 2-3 and has not received a win since his brilliant performance against the Nationals on April 14 despite his 3.78 ERA. He has struck out 65 hitters while only walking an astounding 7 batters! Lee has pitched very well against the Cardinals in his starts against them; he is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA during his career. His last start against them was when he was still a member of the Indians in 2009. He pitched a complete game shutout and only allowed 3 hits while striking out 6! Current Cardinal hitters are just 12-68 (.176) against Lee during their careers.
The Cards traded for Westbrook last season to sure up the back end of their rotation and he did a fine job for them. This season has been a completely different story, in 8 starts he is now 2-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP. Those are the kind of numbers that even Adam Eaton would be ashamed of. In his last start, the veteran right hander didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning as he went just 2.1 innings while giving up 5 runs. His only start versus the Phillies came last season while he was too still pitching for the Indians, he went 5 innings and gave up 4 runs. He received a no decision in a game that the Phillies ended up winning in a walk off fashion. Cue Phillies play by play man Tom McCarthy, “How bout Jimmy Rollins, he’s back!!!” Westbrook is a pitcher that the Phillies bats should be able score some runs on, but you never know with this lineup lately. Current Phillie hitters are 15-41 (.366) while facing Westbrook during their careers.
Tuesday May 17 8:15: LHP Roy Oswalt vs. RHP Jaime Garcia
Country Roy is scheduled to come off the disabled list and start Tuesday night’s game. There was some concern that he might not be ready after he lacked the normal zip on his fastball during his rehab start in Clearwater on Thursday night. Oswalt has not started a game since he got roughed up in a game in Arizona due to his personal leave of absence and his back injury. He is now 3-1 on the season with a 3.33 ERA. Like Lee, he has gone a few weeks without getting a win, as his last one came on April 21. Having pitched in the NL Central for the majority of his career, he is no stranger to the Cardinals. In 27 starts (28 games), he is 9-8 with a 3.19 ERA. Despite a 3.11 ERA at Busch Stadium, he is just 1-3 in 7 starts there. Current Cardinals hitters are 34-116 (.293) while facing Oswalt during their careers.
Garcia had a great rookie season and some even doubted that he would be able to pitch at that level this season. But he has taken his rookie season and even raised it to a higher level so far this year. Garcia is now 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 8 starts this season. The young lefty has been able to stump the Phillies during his short career, in 2 starts (4 games) he is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. In the two games he started, he has only given up 2 runs and 7 hits in 7 13 innings! Current Phillie hitters are 6-31 (.194) while facing Westbrook during their careers.
The first game of the series is going to be huge for the Phillies in this short two game series. With Westbrook on the hill, the Phillies bats should be able to push some runs across the plate and hopefully this will allow them to gain some momentum as they head to Tuesday night’s game. In game 2 of the series, they will have to face one of the best pitchers so far in this young season and a guy they have not been able to figure out. The Cards possess a very potent lineup with the highest scoring team in the majors, but you know the saying, good pitching beats good hitting. Hopefully that phrase will be proven true over the next few days in St. Louis. I predict that the Phillies will take both of the 2 games and push the Cardinals losing streak to 5 games!