Series Preview: Phillies face Cardinals for first time since playoffs

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper walks to the dugout after striking out against Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Abner Uribe during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After a strong series against the San Francisco Giants, the Philadelphia Phillies play host to the St. Louis Cardinals for a 3 game series.

The last time these two teams met, the Phillies eliminated the Cardinals from the NL Wild Card series, which was just the beginning of a magical playoff run.

The pair has gone in separate directions since that series. The Phillies have been one of the best teams in baseball, while the Cardinals find themselves at the bottom of the National League.

While the Cardinals may be struggling this season, their club is still loaded with top level talent. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado still anchor the middle of their lineup.

This won’t be an easy series for the Phillies, however, if they can walk away with another series win, they will find themselves in great standing with the Wild Card race heating up.

Playoff Implications for the Phillies

The Phils aren’t competing with the Cardinals for playoff position, but the Cardinals stand in their way down the stretch. Including tonight, these teams will play 6 times in the remaining 35 games of the Phillies season.

St. Louis has not been very good in 2023, but when you have guys like Arenado and Goldschmidt, they still pose a threat. Last weekend many expected the Washington Nationals to roll over against the Phillies. This was the oppose of what went down and the Phils dropped their final series against D.C.

If the Phillies take care of business and win this series, they will only increase their lead in the Wild Card standings. The Phillies enter tonight with a 2 game lead over the Chicago Cubs and a 2.5 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since the Phillies have the season series against both clubs, they hold the tiebreaker, which gives them a 3 and 3.5 game lead respectively on these teams.

The Diamondbacks began a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, taking game one. Both teams are vying for a spot in the Wild Card and Phillies fans should be rooting for a series split amongst these teams.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler throws to an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The other series to watch is between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. With the division all but wrapped up, it benefits the Phillies more to see the Giants lose than the Braves. While it is never easy to root for a division rival, it would help the Phils to see Gabe Kapler’s Giants fall down the standings.

Amongst the competition for the Wild Card, the Giants are the only club who has the season series advantage over the Phillies.

Return of the MV3

Bryce Harper is back.

The former 2-time NL MVP has played most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, he hasn’t been quite himself.

Over the last few weeks, it feels like Harper is 100% and his recent home run barrage all but confirms this.

Harper is hitting .333 in August with an OPS of 1.127. He has hit 7 home runs, which is more than every other month combined this season.

Phillies Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper walks back to the dugout after lining out against Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Colin Rea during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Between his offensive production and splitting time at first base, M-V-3 is back to being a force for the Phillies.

If Harper can maintain a similar pace to this, the Phillies are going to win a lot of baseball games. The offense has begun to heat up dramatically thanks to the addition of prime-Harper and this should be the new norm for this team going forward.

Upcoming Outlook

The Phillies will host the Cardinals Friday-Sunday in this three game series.

Following the conclusion of Sunday’s game, the Phillies will then welcome in the Los Angeles Angels to town.

New Jersey native Mike Trout is expected to miss the series due to injury and with the latest news of phenom Shohei Ohtani tearing his UCL, there is potential for him to miss the remainder of the season, if he opts for surgery.

This could be beneifital to the Phillies, who would avoid playing two of the best players in the game today. As a fan however, it would be great to see Trout and Ohtani take the field at Citizens Bank Park.

If the Phils can take the series from St. Louis, they can be sitting with 70+ wins, and a solid lead heading into the final month of the season.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum