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Tailspin: Phillies vs. Cardinals series preview

The Cardinals haven’t recovered from their 2022 playoff defeat

St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s been mostly frustration for Wilson Contreras and the Cardinals
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

A year ago, the St. Louis Cardinals hosted the Phillies in a Wild Card playoff series. Due to the presence of the league MVP, a couple of future Hall of Famers, and their previous postseason experience, most pundits picked the Cardinals to win that series.

Those pundits were wrong.

Not only did the Phillies dismiss the Cardinals in two games, but they also sent Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina into retirement and the Cardinals franchise into a tailspin that has resulted them in being one of the worst teams in baseball this season.

St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 56-72, Fifth place in National League Central (14.5 games back)

The manager

Everyone liked Oliver Marmol in 2022 when as a rookie manager, he led the Cardinals to the NL Central title. Now that the Cardinals are in last place, they like him a lot less.

The last time they met

It was that Wild Card series I mentioned earlier. In game one, the Cardinals were doing well until closer Ryan Helsley self-destructed in the ninth.

In game two, they never had a chance against Aaron Nola and Bryce Harper. You may recall that Harper had been struggling up to that point, but his mammoth home run switched him into MVP mode.

What’s the deal with the Cardinals?

They got off to a poor start, finished April with a 10-18 record, and their marquee free agent acquisition was temporarily removed from catching because he couldn’t seem to handle the pitching staff.

They never recovered from that start, and August has been particularly unkind to the Cardinals. A 9-12 record is bad enough, but it’s made worse by them losing series to also rans like the Rockies, Mets, and Pirates.

The offense still features Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, but those two have merely been good, not great. The Cardinals actually rank third in the NL in team OPS, but just seventh in runs scored. Believe it or not, the Cardinals might actually be worse than the Phillies with the bases loaded. Part of the problem is Arenado who leads the league in one category this season: Grounding into double plays.

And what about the pitching?

It’s not great. Here are the three starters the Phillies will face this weekend:

Miles Mikolas

Mikolas has made two All-Star teams in two seasons, but 2023 was not one of them. He leads the league in hits allowed and is coming off a start where he gave up seven runs to the Mets of all teams. And remember that massive Harper home run from last year? That’s typical for him, with Harper being 4-10 with a home run in their career regular season matchups.

Dakota Hudson

After a delayed start to the season, Hudson was recently moved to the starting rotation and has fared pretty well despite walking a lot of batters. It’s too bad for Hudson that this game won’t be played in St. Louis because he has had some problems pitching on the road throughout his career.

Drew Rom

Rom will be making his second career start. The first one didn’t go so well.

Relief in sight?

With Jose Alvarado back from the Injured List, the Phillies have their late game troika of Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and Craig Kimbrel in place. Theoretically, they should be able to effectively shorten games, but there is concern about each of them.

Kimbrel blew the game on Wednesday, and after pitching a lot of key late innings, he might be wearing down a bit. Alvarado pitched a scoreless frame in his return but needed a lot of pitches to do so. And aside from a few flashes, Dominguez hasn’t looked quite right all year.

It would be ideal if those three can round into form down the stretch. It might help if the Phillies’ offense could get the pitching staff some comfortable leads down the stretch, so they don’t have to pitch high stress innings every night.

The Cardinals as an MCU villain

The High Evolutionary

The haughtier a villain is, the more rewarding it is to see them receive their comeuppance. And outside of the Bronx, there is no haughtier organization in baseball than the Cardinals. Their defeat at the hands of the Phillies in last year's playoffs was as satisfying as watching Rocket tear the face off the High Evolutionary.

Seeing the Cardinals’ 2023 season crumble is similar to seeing the High Evolutionary realize that his counter-Earth experiment failed.


Last series’ answer: Before this year, the last Phillies pitcher to earn a win in Toronto was Vince Velasquez. Chappdaddy was first with the correct answer.

This series’ question: In the 2022 Wild Card series, no Phillies had a stolen base, although one player was caught stealing. Who was he?

Closing thought

Taking two out of three against the Giants was important for playoff positioning. With a 2.5 game lead for the first Wild Card spot, that means the Phillies just need to win the games they should the rest of the way. With recent slip ups against losing teams like the Pirates and Nationals, the Phillies need to make sure it doesn’t happen again this weekend.

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