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)
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.
Oliver Marmol is the most unlikeable player/coach/manager/FO member in all of baseball. I don’t think there’s anyone more unlikeable obviously excluding the domestic abusers and drunk drivers.— Justin (@JustMets26) August 19, 2023
Any game managed by Oliver Marmol https://t.co/WtfFTGpmO2— SCOTT ROLEN IS A HALL OF FAMER (@curtaincalls_) August 16, 2023
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.
Jean Segura punches an RBI single through to score two runs and give the Phillies the lead!— Beerly Baseball (@BeerlyBaseball) October 7, 2022
Ryan Helsley couldn’t keep the lead and was replaced after hitting Alec Bohm pic.twitter.com/UVAfPCpucS
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.
Can we all just agree that Wilson Contreras was the biggest waste of $87 million in cardinals franchise. Bad pitch calls at the plate, calling pitches that the pitchers don't have, and very sloppy at bats. #swingsatthefirstpitch— Ethan (@Ethan88171202) July 4, 2023
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.
How are the Cardinals 29th with the bases loaded who the heck is worse?— Matthew (@ThisIsMatthew97) August 23, 2023
And what about the pitching?
It’s not great. Here are the three starters the Phillies will face this weekend:
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.
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.
Never forget Dakota Hudson's home/road splits pic.twitter.com/OdEf1F2JjR— James Schiano (@James_Schiano) August 20, 2023
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.
rocket raccoon viciously attacks high evolutionary, clawing at his face after lylla's death in guardians of the galaxy vol. 3 pic.twitter.com/hj405goRKZ— mcu reactions & clips (@reactmcu) August 8, 2023
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?
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.