The Philadelphia Phillies are flying home to face the St. Louis Cardinals after a depressing road trip that saw the team go 1-5.
The first road trip of the year for the Phillies ended up being a minor disaster. Between a 3-game set in Atlanta and a rain-shortened 3-game set in New York, the Phillies went 1-5. A bad call and rain kept the Phillies from going a stomach-curdling 0-7.
But that’s all over.
The Phillies now head to the safer confines of Citizens Bank Park, where they started the season 5-1. They face off against an old foe: the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds match up well against the Phils as both teams come into today with identical 6-6 records. Who will have the upper hand?
Guess what? The Phillies don’t have to face Jack Flaherty! Huzzah!
Instead, the Phillies will face a mixed bag of starters: Carlos Martinez, Kwang Hyun Kim, and John Gant, in that order. Carlos Martinez has not been good so far in 2021. The former 2X All-Star has a 6.30 ERA in two starts so far. Since 2020, he has an 8.70 ERA. If he has become washed up, the Phillies must take advantage.
Kwang Hyun Kim is the wildcard of the bunch. He had a stellar 2020, posting a 1.62 ERA in his major league debut. However, he’s coming off a back injury that cost him most of spring training. If his FIP from 2020 (3.88) holds any merit, he could just be an average Joe of a pitcher.
Finally, John Gant has been the most effective of the three so far. In two starts, he has an ERA of 3.00. The problem is his stamina. He’s only pitched nine innings so far. If the Phillies get to Kim, the bullpen could be ripe for the picking in this game.
In-game three, the Phillies will skip over Matt Moore/Chase Anderson to play Aaron Nola on regular rest. This brings two important questions to the table: Who will start Saturday, and Can Nola prove he’s the ace of the staff.
The first question pits Moore and Anderson in a lackluster competition of sorts. Moore has allowed a boatload (13) of hits this season in just 8.1 IP. Unless the Phillies truly believe in him, his 7.56 ERA might scare them away from starting him against the Cardinals. Chase Anderson has posted a respectful 4.00 ERA as a 5-starter so far. If he does get the nod, look for him to go above 80 pitches for the first time this season.
The latter question is one many Phillies fans ask themselves. Is Aaron Nola really an Ace? A short paragraph surely cannot give that question any justice. Aaron Nola sits at a 3.45 ERA at the moment. He’s looking to regain form after only lasting five innings against the Mets while allowing three ER. In six career starts against the Cardinals, Nola has a 2.35 ERA. A start with an ERA of that ilk should put Nola back on track for the season.
K for Katastrophe
While the Phillies only rank 12th for most strikeouts, they are 3rd in teams that have only played 12 games. They’ve also been wildly inconsistent in striking out. In their last five games (from Wednesday going backward), here’s the team total in K’s: 14, 3, 14, 6, 12.
Truly, all over the place.
Bryce Harper himself shoulders a lot of the blame, as stated in a piece from Jim Salisbury.
“As a team and as a club, we have to be better, especially in that batter’s box right now. On a personal level, l need to do better. Punching out that many times in a game as a team or as an individual, I can’t do that. I need to have better at-bats, need to stop chasing stuff out of the zone.“
Harper has a K per game so far and is only hitting .231. His OPS of .798, however, is respectable.
The St. Louis Cardinals might have the best corner infielders in baseball (sorry Athletics). In the offseason, the Cards acquired All-Star Platinum Glove 3rd baseman Nolan Arenado from the Rockies for pocket change.
The perennial MVP contender is off to a hot start in 2021. He’s slashing .319/.373/.574 to begin his career as a Cardinal. He’s averaging an extra-base hit a game with three doubles and three home runs at this point. And remember, he’s still making plays like this.
He also just turned 30 today (Friday). Hopefully, he doesn’t celebrate against the Phillies.
At first base, the Cardinals have Paul Goldschmidt. The former 6X All-Star hasn’t started the year on fire, but that doesn’t mean he can’t catch fire any second. He has a .620 OPS right now but a .912 OPS for his career. Just pray the Wilmington native doesn’t decide to destroy the Phillies singlehandedly.