The St. Louis Cardinals (59-37) continue their first home stand of the second half as they host the Philadelphia Phillies (49-50) for three games. The Cardinals still hold the best record in the National League, but their lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a mere 1 1/2 games. Although they just lost two of their three games to the third place Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates continue keeping pressure on the Cardinals. The Cardinals are looking to join the Boston Red Sox in the 60 win club.
With just over one week left before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies ownership have some difficult decisions to make. They currently trail the Atlanta Braves by seven games, who are in the middle of a four game series with the Mets in New York. They also trail the Cincinnati Reds by seven games for the second wild card spot. But that does not automatically make them a seller. Since there are no teams between the Braves and Phillies, a hot or cold week from either team could make this a close race.
There have been rumors of other team’s interest in Michael Young, suggesting that the Phillies might use this opportunity to retool their aging roster. If that is the case, two names have been linked to the Cardinals – left handed starter Cliff Lee and right handed reliever Jonathon Papelbon. Whether there are serious discussions happening or this is just fan speculation, it makes for a very interesting three games in St. Louis.
How they got here
The Cardinals started the second half with a three game home series against the struggling San Diego Padres. While they won two of the three games, there was something of a discomfort about how they won.
Jake Westbrook kept the Padres off the scoreboard through the first six innings, but a 6-0 and later 9-3 blowout turned into a save opportunity for Edward Mujica when both Carlos Martinez and Fernando Salas were ineffective. On the fun side, Jake Westbrook was an offensive juggernaut, helping his own cause with a three hit night.
Lance Lynn continued his second half woes in the second game of the series as he lasted just five innings, giving up 4 runs in the process. Lynn would take the loss in the game, his fourth over his last five starts. He remains an enigma in the Cardinals rotation, causing some fans to call for his reassignment to the bullpen.
The most uncomfortable of the games was the Sunday afternoon finale. Adam Wainwright battled eight innings, allowing just a pair of runs. Wainwright seemed to be in trouble all afternoon, but showed fans the difference between a good and great pitcher as he stranded runner after runner. Allen Craig saved the game for Edward Mujica as he made a spectacular catch on a fly ball that would have surely given the Padres a lead. Cardinals fans remember a similar catch in Game Seven of the 2011 World Series.
The Philadelphia Phillies squandered a great opportunity as the Braves lost two of three games to the ailing Chicago White Sox. They would do similarly to the New York Mets, outslugging them 13-8 in the first game, but falling short in the next two, 5-4 and 5-0.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, they will not face the Phillies two tough lefties, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Conversely, the Phillies get to skip Adam Wainwright, who is putting together a Cy Young type of season.
Tuesday, July 23 – 7:15pm CDT
If you want to catch a brief glimpse into the future of these two franchises, this will be the game for you. Each team will send an impressive 22 year old to the mound. Shelby Miller put himself into Rookie of the Year consideration with a dominating start to the season, but has struggled in his last few starts. Even then, he is sporting a sub-3 ERA, which is currently third among Cardinals starters. Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, reworked the starting rotation just before the All Star Game break to give Miller some extra rest.
The Cardinals need to take Jonathon Pettibone very seriously. He did not have the flashy start to the season as Miller, but he has been very dependable in hist last 5 starts. Although he has not gone deep in them, he has kept the Phillies in the game.
This will be the first time that Miller has faced the Phillies. It will also be the same for Pettibone and the Cardinals. Given how much trouble the Cardinals seem to have with new pitchers, this game is too close to call.
TV: Fox Sports Midwest, PHL 17, MLB.tv (out of market)
Note: This is the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day
Wednesday, July 24 – 7:15pm CDT
Westbrook is 4-3 in his seven starts since missing a month with elbow soreness. His 4.04 ERA over that period is somewhat misleading as 10 of the 22 runs allowed came in a pair of road losses at Houston and Oakland. He has fared much better in his last three starts, pitching into the seventh inning in all three. While fans may still be anxious with him on the mound, Westbrook is doing exactly what the Cardinals need from their veteran right hander.
Although John Lannan has been something of an enigma this season, alternating good outings with getting rocked, his last two starts before the All Star break were nothing short of spectacular. He would pitch eight innings in both, allowing just a single run on eight hits.
With Matt Holliday on the disabled list, the Phillies would seem to have the advantage here as the Cardinals can be vulnerable to left handed pitching. But Jake Westbrook as been lights out at home and give the Cardinals the advantage.
TV: Fox Sports Midwest, MLB Network, MLB.tv (out of market)
Thursday, July 25 – 6:15pm CDT
While you try not to place too much importance on a single game, this one might have some serious trade deadline implications. For the second year in a row, Lance Lynn has been magnificent in the first half. A couple of rough outings recently are giving fans some reason to think he could be a second half fader. Another weak outing here could be all it takes to get the front office to make a move, and Lynn heading back to the bullpen.
Kendrick is in his seventh season with the Phillies and has grown into a dependable albeit not overly flashy starter. This year he seems to be getting deeper into games, throwing two complete games already with one of them being a shutout
Lance Lynn makes this one too close to call. The wild card here is that Kendrick nearly always follows a rough outing with a good one. He gave up 6 runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last start, but the Phillies still won the game. You will just have to watch this one as all predictions have gone out the window.
TV: Fox Sports Midwest, CSN, MLB Network, MLB.tv (out of market)
Entering this season, the Cardinals have three of the top four batting averages in the National League. Yadier Molina (.336) is the top spot, but Allen Craig (.332) is closing in at second. Matt Carpenter (.325) is fourth.
Delmon Young is the second hottest hitter in the National League right now, going 7-13 since the All Star break. His slash line of .538 / .538 / .632 is dizzying.
Ben Revere has been the Phillies best hitter, but is currently on the disabled list.
While not as hot as Delmon Young, Matt Carpenter is tearing up the National League, not in just the last few days, but the entire season. Since the break, the Cardinals second baseman is 5-11 with 3 runs batted in and scoring 3 runs himself. He is the catalyst at the top of the Cardinals batting order and is quietly putting himself in the discussion for MVP.
Chase Utley and David Freese are also starting to warm up, Ultey having the more productive start to the second half with a pair of home runs and 6 RBIs.
Has there every been a time when Allen Craig was not hot ?
While he is still leading the league in hitting, Yadier Molina has cooled off, hitting only .250 over the last month.
Pete Kozma continues to hit just enough to keep his job, but that may be in jeopardy soon. While he is hitting .237 for the year, he is only hitting .160 over the last month. Daniel Descalso has been getting some starts at short, suggesting that we might see a Descalso/Kozma platoon until things improve. Ryan Jackson is still hitting around .300 in Memphis (AAA) and patiently waiting for a phone call.
Carlos Ruiz and Micheal Young have cooled off significantly in the last week. Ruiz is 1 for his last 9 and Young is 2 for his last 10.
Injuries – Philadelphia
Mike Adams (RHP) – 60 day DL. He has multiple tears in his right shoulder and will likely miss the rest of the season.
Roy Halladay (RHP) – 60 day DL. Had surgery on his shoulder in May and has just started throwing from the mound. He may be back some time in late August.
Jeremy Horst (LHP) – 15 day DL. Left elbow strain and is likely out for the season.
Ryan Howard (1B) – 15 day DL. Injuries continue to plague the St. Louis native. This time it is his left knee. No timetable for his return, but a follow up examination this week may give some indications when to expect him back.
Ben Revere (OF) – 15 day DL. He recently underwent surgery to repair his fractured right foot. He might be back in late August, but mid-September is more likely.
Michael Stutes (RHP) – 15 day DL. Stutes has tendinitis in his right biceps. He is scheduled to begin throwing some time this week, but no timetable has been set on his return.
Injuries – St. Louis
Rafael Furcal (SS) – 60 day DL. Furcal had Tommy John surgery in March 13 and is out for the season.
Jason Motte (RHP) – 60 day DL. The Cardinals hard throwing closer had Tommy John surgery in May and is out for the remainder of the season.
Jaime Garcia (LHP) – 60 day DL. Garcia had shoulder surgery on May 24 to repair the rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder. He is out for the remainder of the season.
John Gast (LHP) – 15 day DL. Gast suffered a strain of his left lat during his second start with the Cardinals. There is still no timetable set for his return.
Chris Carpenter (RHP) has experienced a setback following his second start in the minors last Saturday. He has temporarily shut down his rehab activities, which puts a possible August return in jeopardy.
Matt Holliday (OF) – 15 day DL. Holliday suffered a right hamstring strain while running out a ground ball on July 11. He has resumed running and is reported to be free of pain. He will not be eligible to come off the disabled list during this series, but is expected to be activated during the Braves weekend series.
Bob Netherton is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and United Cardinal Bloggers. His work can be found at On the Outside Corner, a mostly historical blog about the St. Louis Cardinals. You can also find Bob on Twitter at @CardinalTales.
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