The Phils (49-50) continue their nine game road trip as they head to St. Louis to take on the NL’s top team, the St. Louis Cardinals (59-37). The Phils are coming off what could have been a disastrous three game sweep by their rival to the north, as none of their top three pitchers threw a good game. On Friday night they got a rare offensive outburst that spotted Kendrick an 11-run lead by the third inning. Instead of cruising to victory Kendrick couldn’t get out of the 6th inning. Saturday and Sunday Phils aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee came up short as the Phils dropped below .500 yet again, finishing the series 1-2. They had their chances against Zack Wheeler on Saturday, but were completely outclassed by Matt Harvey on Sunday.
Tonight they take on the Cards looking to break the two-game skid and even their record at 50-50. Jonathan Pettibone 5-3, 3.89 takes on Shelby Miller 9-6, 2.92. The 23 year-old right-handed rookie Pettibone has pitched his way on to the Phils staff after injuries to Halladay and Lannan earlier this season. He’ll need another big game tonight as the Phils not only need to make up ground in NL East race and wild card chase, but they must convince GM Ruben Amaro Jr. this team is worth patching up for the last 63 games as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. Pettibone has pitched well his last three games, allowing 14 hits and 5 ER in 17 innings of work. He was the winning pitcher against the Pirates and Atlanta, but wound up with a ND in a loss to the White Sox.
Pettibone has yet to face the Cardinals and this will be a big test for him. Miller, the 6’3″ 215 lb. righty rookie has pitched even better than his 9-6 record, as a closer look at the numbers not only show a 2.92 ERA, but a 1.118 WHIP and 112 K’s in 104.2 IP. Miller, who is only 22 years old has never faced the Phils in his short career. That doesn’t bode well for Phillies as their success, or lack thereof, has been well documented in their first time out against a pitcher. Miller throws a plus fastball topping out in the mid 90’s and a 12-6 curve that has baffled hitters all year-long. However the young pitcher seems to have hit a wall in his last three starts, raising his ERA from 2.35 on 6/22 to its current 2.92. Both starters average less than 6 IP per start. If this game goes to the bullpen that could be trouble for the Phils, as the Cardinals have four relievers with ERA’s under 2.50.
In game two of the series the Phils send lefty Jon Lannan 2-3, 3.76 to the hill against another big right-handed pitcher, Jake Westbrook 6-4, 2.88. After getting shelled by the Pirates on July 3rd for 11 hits and 4 ER in only 5 innings of work Lannan has turned in two 8-inning, 4-hit gems only surrendering 1 ER in the two games. His latest effort against the White Sox on July 13th went to waste as the Phils ended up losing 2-1 in 13 innings. The Phils are 6-3 in games Lannan has started, and with the offense sputtering they’re going to need another big effort from Lannan on Wednesday. Westbrook has done a smoke and mirrors job this year with the Cards and it’s only a matter of time before the numbers catch up to him. He’s only struck out 30 in 81.1 innings of work while walking 33. His WHIP of 1.402 belies his ERA of 2.88. Pitching with a great defense behind him has greatly helped the veteran Westbrook, and in his last three starts he’s 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA. Despite the Cards pedestrian 7-6 record with Westbrrok on the hill, there’s no such thing as an easy victory against St. Louis.
In the series finale the Phils send Kyle Kendrick 9-6, 3.94 against Lance Lynn 11-5, 4.13. Though Kendrick is 2-1 in his last three starts his ERA is 6.11 and the only good outing he can claim is against the NL East leading Braves, where he went seven strong allowing only 5 hits and 1 ER back on July 11th. Lance Lynn is another of the Cardinals big right-handers, coming in at 6’5″ and tipping the scales at 240 lbs. The 26 year-old a Lynn is a classic power pitcher who’s averaged over a strikeout per inning in his short career, debuting for the Cardinals in September of 2011. His 18-7 record last year in 29 starts and 6 relief appearances solidified his role as a starting pitcher for the Redbirds this year. Though 11-5 this year and 29-12 over the last two seasons his ERA+ of 89 this year tells us Lynn is more beatable than his record indicates. On July 7th Lynn threw a good game getting the win against a bad Marlins team, but in his two starts since he’s struggled against the Cubs and Padres, losing both games while posting a 9.64 ERA. In those two games he’s struggled racking up the K’s, posting only 3 in 9.1 innings of work. Could the Phils be catching the big righty at a time when he’s beginning to fade? His 2nd half last year was shaky too. We’ll see Thursday, as the Phils lineup doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of too many pitchers these days.
The Phils come into this series desperately needing to take at least two out of the three games. Missing Wainwright makes that task easier, but not easy.