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Road to perdition: Phillies vs. Cardinals series preview

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It would be swell if the Phillies could figure out how to win games away from home

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
Can the Phillies end their road woes at Busch Stadium?
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies aren’t a good team, but they suddenly play like one when they face the Phillies at Coors Field. Or maybe the problem is that the Phillies become a bad team any time they have to play a game away from Citizens Bank Park.

Unfortunately, the Phillies aren’t headed home yet, with four games to play in St. Louis. According to the standings, the Cardinals aren’t a great team, but if recent history continues, the Phillies might make them look like one.

St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 11-10 (Second place in National League Central)

The last time they met

The Cardinals visited Citizens Bank Park a little over a week ago, and thanks in part to Aaron Nola’s two-hitter in the finale, the Phillies won two of the three games.

Since then?

The Cardinals have won four out of six, including a sweep of the Reds this past weekend.

Dear Phillies, please stop giving up home runs. Thanks.

Phillies pitchers have developed a bad habit of giving up a lot of home runs to opposing batters. Their 32 home runs allowed is the second highest total in the National League, and if you know anything about baseball, you’ll recognize that this is not ideal.

They gave up seven homers in the three games in Colorado, and while giving up some long balls in Colorado is excusable, it wasn’t as if the problems have been limited to Coors Field. It’s also galling that they’ve surrendered home runs to some guys who aren’t exactly renowned sluggers. (Garrett Hampson, Tommy La Stella, and Darin Ruf are a few of the players who have taken Phillies pitchers deep in recent games.)

Spotlight on: Justin Williams

Heading into the season, the outfield was seen as a giant question mark for the Cardinals, and after nearly a month of play, that question has yet to be answered. Rookie Justin Williams has been given most of the playing time in right field, but he hasn’t seized the opportunity, batting just .189 with 19 strikeouts in 21 games.

About a week ago, Cardinals fans were convinced that he was hitting the ball hard, and his poor numbers were simply due to bad luck.

If that’s the case, then his luck hasn’t turned around quite yet. Williams has just one hit over the past five games and zero over the last three. (Of course, knowing the Phillies’ pitching, he’ll probably hit at least one home run this week.)

Quick look at the Cardinals’ scheduled starters

You might be surprised that Adam Wainwright is still pitching in the Major Leagues, but the 39-year-old is indeed a member of the 2021 Cardinals’ rotation. His first start of the season (Six runs in 2.2 innings) made it look like he should have hung it up, but in his last start, he struck out 10 batters in seven innings. At his advanced age, that much exertion probably took its toll on him, so look for him to regress a bit this time out.

The Cardinals are 0-4 in Carlos Martinez’s starts, and the Phillies already roughed him up once this season. He’ll be followed by rookie Johan Oviedo making his first start of the season. Oviedo hasn’t impressed early in his career, only making it past the fifth inning once in his first five starts. (And the one time he made it into the sixth, he gave up five earned runs.)

For the finale, the Phillies will get their second look at another young pitcher in Kwang Hyun Kim. Their first look didn’t last too long since the Phillies knocked him out of the game after just three innings.

Punchable face analysis

Which Cardinals player has the most punchable face? As always, this is subject to opinion, but outfielder Dylan Carlson makes a strong case for the title.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Media Day USA TODAY NETWORK

Carlson has such a bored expression that you get the feeling that he might almost welcome a punch. Come on, Dylan- It’s only your second season in the big leagues! You need to be around at least three years to be able to pull off that kind of jaded look. Also, there are multiple ways to wear a hat and make it look good. Carlson has chosen none of them.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Chase Utley’s 50 career hits at Coors Field is the most by any Phillie. SteveH2331 was first with the correct answer.

This series’ question: The current iteration of Busch Stadium opened in 2006, and the Phillies won the first five games they played at the park before falling in extra innings in the sixth. Who was the losing pitcher for that first loss?

What to expect

  • David Hale and Roman Quinn will once again be used in relatively important situations, and it will continue to go poorly for the Phillies.
  • With Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin all scheduled for the series, the starting pitching should hold up well.
  • Rhys Hoskins will stay hot and hit at least one home run this series.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

I never understood why the Busch corporation’s eponymous beer brand wasn’t better tasting. I realize that Budweiser is the company’s flagship brand, but you wouldn’t expect Busch to taste as bad as it does.