St. Louis Cardinals (31-37, 4th NL Central) vs Philadelphia Phillies (22-46, 5th in NL East)
Just last week, the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Phillies in a three-game set during a road trip in which Philadelphia went just 2-7. Starting tonight, both clubs will face off once more, this time in South Philadelphia, as the Phillies finish off their June home schedule.
Both the Cardinals and Phils enter the series stifling, in search of some momentum as the midsummer classic rolls along. The Phillies have fallen in 11 of their last 12 and are averaging just above two runs per game during that stretch. Pitching hasn’t been much better, scraping near the bottom in all of baseball with a 4.92 ERA. Can this team finally turn it around? The Cards may be that team to beat.
The Red Birds, like the Phillies, are struggling to catch the win column; they are 2-12 in their last 14 road games. The offense has picked up to a tune of 44 runs scored the past week, however pitching has been stuck in mediocrity, resulting in a tumbling record. Over the seven-game span, the starting staff has an ERA of 9.39. Maybe the Cardinals can get back on track by way of Pete Mackanin’s reeling squad?
Here’s a look at the projected pitching matchups for the series and a breakdown of each starter. Interesting to note, the Phillies roll out the same three in the rotation as the last time.
Game 1: Mike Leake (5-6, 3.14 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.91 ERA)
In the opening game, it’ll be a matchup of two veteran righties who are looking to turn their individual season’s around after starting out hot.
Leake comes into the game on a cold spurt, being knocked around for 17 earned runs in his last 24 2/3 innings since beginning his 2017 as one of the best in baseball. The stats are not in his favor to turn it around tonight. Against the Fightins, Leake holds a 5.40 ERA in 10 career starts. Since starting the year 5-2 and a 1.91 ERA, the 29-year-old has lost four consecutive starts.
The Phillies ace will have a second look at the Cardinals, hoping to avenge the 3-2 loss in the last series opener. Hellickson surrendered three runs on 10 hits over six innings in that one. The former AL Rookie of the Year award winner is looking to snap a losing streak of his own, dropping the last five contests and posting a 7.57 ERA to go along with it. He started the season 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The Phillies hope he gets his groove back in time for the trade deadline when Hellickson could be dealt to a contender.
Game 2: Michael Wacha (3-3, 4.78 ERA) vs Nick Pivetta (1-3, 4.46 ERA)
A young pair of righties look to right the ship for their respective clubs in the middle matchup of the series.
Once a 17-game winner in 2015, Wacha has proven he has the “stuff” to get it done on the mound. He’ll come into this start after lasting only four innings his last time out. Against the Brewers, Wacha labored through four, throwing 89 pitches and allowing seven hits, four runs, and three walks, while striking out five. He has yet to get through the seventh inning this year, but has shown signs of his old self.
Pivetta is coming off a career night on June 15, pitching seven shutout innings and racking up nine K’s against a high-powered Boston offense. Unfortunately, the support wasn’t there, and he took the no-decision. The 24-year-old has a small sample size of seven starts, but he’s proven to be one of the more reliable arms thus far for the Phillies. Now is a great time for Pivetta to build on his prior start and take it one step further against the Cardinals.
Game 3: Carlos Martinez (6-5, 2.86 ERA) vs Aaron Nola (3-5, 4.76 ERA)
In the rubber game and final matchup of the season between these clubs, a couple more righties toe the rubber with varying results.
Martinez is undoubtedly the best starting pitcher for Mike Matheney this year in all facets of the game. With three double digit strikeout games and two complete games to his name, he could spell trouble for the Phils offense if they can’t get it together. Martinez may be coming into his own, now being a member of the big leagues for four years; 30 of his 40 wins have come in two years. In the business person’s special matinee, Martinez will take the field hopeful of taking the Cardinals to another series win.
The LSU product Nola is in search of a turn around after an injury-riddled sophomore year. In six starts since returning off a DL-stint, he’s seen success and lack-thereof. Nola is hoping to rid himself of the “injury prone” and “inconsistent” label that’s been riddling him thus far by delivering a win for the Phillie faithful. His last start against St. Louis was a five inning, six strikeout performance that earned him a loss. Full potential has yet to be seen for Nola, and a dominant outing is a step in the right direction.
This will be the final series at Citizens Bank Park in June, and we can only hope the Phillies end it on a positive note. Just think, it really can’t get much worse, can it?
Game one is slated for first pitch at 7:05 p.m. tonight; tomorrow is also 7:05 p.m. before the 1:05 p.m. daytime matinee for the finale.
Photo credit Ian D’Andrea via Flickr