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Mayday: Phillies vs. Cardinals series preview

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The Phillies will try to add to the Cardinals’ misery in the month of May

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s been a long month for Paul DeJong and the Cardinals
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

After a mostly successful road trip, the Phillies head home to take on the Cardinals. Based on how the Cardinals have fared in recent weeks, there’s a good chance this could be a successful homestand as well.

St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 26-26, Third place in National League Central

The last time they met

When the Phillies traveled to Missouri earlier this month, the series got off to a bad start when they were shut out 6-0 in the opener. But they rallied to win the next two games by a combined score of 16-1.

Not a merry month

That series was representative of how this month has gone for the Cardinals. On May 1st, they were leading the Central division by three games. Thanks to a 7-16 record since then, they’ve dropped to third place and sit 4.5 games out of first place.

Phillies pitching vs. Cardinals hitting

The Cardinals have the second lowest slugging percentage in the National League in May. The only team they’re ahead of is the Marlins, and they barely qualify as a real team. Thanks to their frequent walks, the Cards have a high on-base percentage, but at some point you need to drive those runners home.

It used to be that pitchers would fear facing first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but his numbers are rather ordinary as far as first basemen go. Paul DeJong’s overall numbers look good, but he’s batting a paltry .176 over the past two weeks. Their most dangerous hitter for most of the season has been Marcell Ozuna, but even he’s cooled off considerably since the beginning of the month.

Kansas City Royals v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two
Marcell Ozuna hasn’t sustained his hot start
Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

Nick Pivetta is back from the minors, and the hope is that his recent demotion will allow him to belatedly experience the breakout year that many people predicted. Facing the Cardinals might be an ideal way to welcome him back into the rotation. When he faced them last season, he struck out 13 batters in 7.1 innings.

Aaron Nola hasn’t been the ace of 2018, but he didn’t have much trouble with the Cardinals’ lineup in his previous start. That’s not surprising since his career ERA against the Cards is a nifty 2.59. It would be nice if he could finally pitch deep into a game, as he hasn’t finished the seventh inning in any of his starts so far this season.

The finale will go to Jerad Eickhoff. After an initially successful return to the rotation, Eickhoff has delivered three poor starts in a row. The good news is that the last time he faced the Cardinals, he pitched eight shutout innings.

The Phillies’ bullpen has had some shaky moments this season (name a team that can’t say that), but after Monday’s day off, everyone should be well rested. In addition they have a brand new weapon which they assuredly can’t wait to deploy against the Cardinals.

I’m not going to declare that J.D. Hammer is already as good as one of the greatest relievers of all time, but the stats speak for themselves.

Phillies hitting vs. Cardinals pitching

Sunday’s poor showing aside, the Phillies’ power, missing for most of the month re-emerged in the series against the Brewers. They hit six home runs in the series, and the most encouraging sign is that Rhys Hoskins hit two of them. Hoskins’ power tends to come in streaks, so if he can start sending balls into the stands with regularity, the Phillies’ offense will benefit greatly.

He’ll have a good opportunity against a Cardinals’ pitching staff has struggled this month. While the overall team ERA has been mediocre, the Cards’ FIP is second highest in the league, meaning there’s the possibility that things might get worse for them moving forward.

There was a time when the Cardinals would love having Adam Wainright start off a series, but there was also a time when his ERA was considerably lower than the 4.82 mark he currently carries. At least Wainright has a history of success, while Wednesday’s starter has no history at all. Genesis Cabrera is scheduled to make his major league debut. It’s a tough ask for any pitcher to debut against a first place team, let alone a pitcher who had a 6.35 ERA at AAA.

The finale will be started by Dakota Hudson. He’s probably hoping his team plays better defense behind him this time around, since in his prior start against the Phillies, six of the eight runs he gave up were unearned. Then again, he can’t blame this on his defense:

Even if the Cardinals are leading in the ninth inning, Phillies fans shouldn’t give up hope. Closer Jordan Hicks may be one of the hardest throwers in baseball, but that didn’t help him much in his last appearance. He faced four batters and all four reached base.

Buyer’s remorse?

After three straight years missing the playoffs, the Cardinals made a bold move this offseason by trading for and extending Goldschmidt, the former Diamondbacks’ star. After narrowly avoiding giving an albatross contract to Albert Pujols earlier this decade, you’d think they would understand the peril in giving big money to aging, power-hitting first basemen.

Things may yet work out for Goldschmidt and the Cardinals, but it isn’t off to a good start. Goldschmidt’s current batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage would be the lowest marks of his career. It’s possible that he’s begun to decline, which is bad news for the Cardinals who owe him $26 million a season through 2024.

Trivia

Who are the two members of the Phillies’ 40 man roster to have spent time in the Cardinals organization?

Prediction

I’m skeptical about how well Pivetta’s return will go, especially given the not-very-promising weather report for Tuesday night. I’m more confident that Nola and Eickhoff will repeat their strong performances against the Cardinals. St. Louis’ May misery continues as they drop two out of three.