Phillies Series Preview: at Saint Louis Cardinals

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Apr 20, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; MLB umpires Rob Drake (left) and umpire Gary Darling (right) review a challenged call made in the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; MLB umpires Rob Drake (left) and umpire Gary Darling (right) review a challenged call made in the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies begin a 10-game road trip with a four-game series against the Saint Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The perennially contending Cardinals and the recent-years struggling Phillies have been two of baseball’s biggest stories here in the early going of the 2016 MLB season, the Phils for good reasons, the Cards – not so much.

Saint Louis has now lost four straight games to drop a game below the .500 mark in an increasingly tough NL Central Division. They are already six games behind the arch-rival Chicago Cubs, and are closer to fourth place than second at this point.

The Cards have been led thus far in the 2016 season by a pair of talented 25-year old youngsters in right fielder Stephen Piscotty and shortstop Aledmys Diaz. Piscotty is hitting for a .297/.366/.516 slash line with four homers and 15 RBI, and Diaz has a .423/.453/732 line with four homers and 13 RBI.

Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Adams provide Saint Louis with an experienced and talented lineup that is always tough on any opponent.

28-year old rookie outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and veteran Brandon Moss each have five homers to lead one of the deepest attacks that the Phillies have faced thus far in 2016.

Manager Mike Matheny is in his 5th season skippering the ball club, and has taken them to the postseason in each of his first four years at the helm. However, Saint Louis may be following a bit of the script played out by the 2009-11 Phillies. Over the last three seasons, the Cards have gone from losing in the World Series to losing in the NLCS to losing in the NLDS while some of their key players begin to age.

Matheny’s bullpen has not been part of the problems that have the team currently struggling along around the .500 mark. Closer Trevor Rosenthal has been a shutdown guy with five Saves while allowing just six hits over eight innings in which he has a 16/3 K:BB ratio.

Rosenthal is supported in the Cards’ pen by 33-year old Seung-hwan Oh. The first-year Korean import has allowed just five hits over 13 innings with a 19/6 K:BB ratio. Former closer Jonathan Broxton has allowed only six hits in 10 innings with a 11 strikeouts, though he has walked nine. Lefty Kevin Siegrist has been strong as well. In short, you don’t want to go late into games trailing the Cardinals.

Saint Louis came into this season as at least an NL Central Division co-favorite with the arch-rival Chicago Cubs. It is starting to look as if that was somewhat wishful thinking. The Cubs look like destinies darlings, a club on the rise. It’s hard to know what to make of these Cardinals. Of course, it’s hard to know what to make of the Fightin’ Phils as well. This series could begin to tell much about both teams.


PITCHING MATCHUPS

MONDAY: Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81 ERA) vs Adam Wainwright (1-3, 7.16 ERA): Wainwright will turn 35 years old by late summer, and is still trying to find his old form after missing almost the entirety of the 2015 season due to an Achilles injury. We all know here in Philly how that specific injury can rob a once-dominating player of his legs, and thus much of his ability, from what we experienced with Ryan Howard. Wainwright has two Quality Starts among his five to this point, but he barely fit the definition in those. He has given up at least three earned runs every time out, and has not gotten past the 6th inning. This is not the Cy Young-contending Wainwright of the 2009-14 period. Hellickson is coming off the best outing of his Phillies career his last time out at Washington.

TUESDAY: Aaron Nola (1-2, 3.55 ERA) vs Michael Wacha (2-1, 3.07 ERA): Wacha is now the true ace of this Cardinals rotation. Turning just 25 years old this summer, he made his first NL All-Star team a year ago, and is on track to be considered once again. He tossed a stinker in his first outing vs Pittsburgh, but has thrown four consecutive Quality Starts since then. Though he doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, he can throw a lot of pitches, so the Phillies need to work him deep and get him out after six, if not sooner. Nola has gone seven full innings in four of his five starts, and is pushing to be considered for his own first NL All-Star berth.

Apr 23, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Wacha (52) pitches during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 23, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Wacha (52) pitches during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. (Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) /

WEDNESDAY: Adam Morgan (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs Mike Leake (0-3, 5.83 ERA): Leake is a diminutive 28-year old righty who is the classic back-end starter. He is not going to overpower Phillies hitters, and is not likely to go deep into the game. This is one that the Phils cannot let get away with sneaking in one of his handful of strong starts each season, though their bats to this point have been just the type to allow him to pad his stats. Morgan returned to the big leagues this past week thanks to an injury to Charlie Morton, and with the depth forming behind him in the Phils’ minors, he is likely getting a last chance to make a lasting impression. He struck out seven his first time out, but also yielded three earned in five innings.

THURSDAY: Jerad Eickhoff (1-3, 4.15 ERA) vs Jaime Garcia (1-2, 3.73 ERA): Garcia is a talented lefty who turns 30 years of age this summer, and who has suffered through an injury-plagued career over the last handful of seasons. So far in 2016, Garcia has been healthy, and for the most part has been good. He showed just how good he can be in his 2nd outing, tossing a 13-K one-hit shutout against the Brewers. He has also given up seven earned over his last two starts. The Phils have to hope that the potentially dominating version of the southpaw doesn’t show up in the afternoon series finale. Eickhoff has been showing that his 2015 was no fluke, and that the Phils can likely count on him as a back-end rotation option throughout their rebuilding program.

KEYS TO PHILLIES VICTORY

BE TOUGH vs TOUGH: the Cardinals have a tough, veteran lineup that has been through the postseason wars, but with just enough youthful infusion to keep things fresh and interesting. Unfortunately for them, it just hasn’t all meshed into a winning combination in 2016 – yet. The Phillies have shown tremendous gumption and resilience in their surprising start, and need to play with confidence against this team and in front of some of the most passionate and involved fans in the game. This will be a tremendous early test – for both teams.

WALLOP WAINWRIGHT: the Cards former ace is a shell of what he once was, which was a pitcher who has done well vs the Phillies. He holds a career 5-2 mark over a dozen games and 10 starts. This would be poor timing if they happened to catch him waking up from his physical issues. More likely is that they will find a pitcher who just doesn’t have the consistency of his past, and they cannot help him by swinging at bad pitches. Getting off to a good start in the first game of this long road trip could be huge.

PLUG LEAKE: they need to win the third game of this series, period. Leake is usually a very beatable pitcher. Meanwhile, Morgan needs to settle down and ease into his new role at the big league level, proving that he belongs here for the long term. This is a major opportunity for the lefty, and he has to show the confidence and results to take advantage. This game is the perfect chance to start doing just that.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Monday, May 2nd@St. Louis Cardinals8:15 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio
Tuesday, May 3rd@St. Louis Cardinals8:15 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio
Wednesday, May 4th@St. Louis Cardinals8:15 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio
Thursday, May 5th@St. Louis Cardinals1:45 PM EDTCSN TV, also MLBN (out-of-market only)94 WIP FM radio

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE forecast for Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, Missouri

Monday

A chance of showers. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 71. East wind 5 to 8 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Monday Night

A chance of showers, mainly after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 51. Northwest wind 6 to 8 mph becoming north after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Tuesday

Showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 63. Northeast wind around 6 mph becoming calm in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Tuesday Night

Mostly cloudy, with a low around 50.

Wednesday

Partly sunny, with a high near 69.

Wednesday Night

A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 52. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Thursday

A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 66. Chance of precipitation is 40%.


INJURIES / DISABLED LIST

St. Louis Cardinals

DatePlayerStatus
4/4Tommy Pham, CFStrained left oblique (on 15-day DL)
4/2Lance Lynn, PRecovery from right elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)
4/1Brayan Peña, CLeft knee surgery – out 2-4 weeks (on 15-day DL)
3/31Jordan Walden, PRight shoulder inflammation (on 15-day DL)
3/25Mitch Harris, PNerve issues, right elbow (on 15-day DL)
3/25Jhonny Peralta, SSTorn left thumb ligament (on 15-day DL)

Philadelphia Phillies

DatePlayerStatus
4/30Dalier Hinojosa, PRight hand contusion (on 15-day DL)
4/24Charlie Morton, PTorn left hamstring – out for season (on 15-day DL)
4/2Aaron Altherr, LFTorn tendon in left wrist (on 60-day DL)
4/2Matt Harrison, PLower back inflammation (on 60-day DL)
4/2Mario Hollands, PRecovery from left elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)
3/25Cody Asche, LFStrained right oblique (on 15-day DL)
3/25Michael Mariot, PRight ankle sprain (on 15-day DL)

Next: Phillies Win 6th Straight, Sweep 2nd Straight Series

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