Phillies hope to stop surging Cardinals in weekend series

Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos celebrates with teammates after he a home run scoring Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

There’s no place like home – especially after having a rough time on the road. The Phillies return to friendly enclosure that is Citizens Bank Park after going 2-4 over the six-game road trip to take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

The trip included three-straight loses – the first time that has happened in 2024. By the end of May in 2023 however, the Phillies had lost three or more in a row five times. Philadelphia also lost both series on the road trip, their first series losses since the first two series of the season after winning or splitting 15 straight. The offense did not look like it’s normal self, mostly scattering hits instead of piling them together until the final game Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco.

Despite the iffy road trip, Philly still finds themselves with the same lead in the division they had prior to leaving their home city, still having the best record in the majors, and still with the most runs scored in MLB despite scoring two or less runs in half their games out west. It might be a “tough” road trip based on the competition they faced, but they pitched very well still and ended the stint on a high note before an off day and are looking to get back on track at home. Last time these teams faced off in early April, Philly managed to take two of three in St. Louis. Let’s look at the match up.

Phillies Aaron Nola
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola leaves the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning in Game 6 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Phillies vs Cardinals: Pitching matchups

Friday

Friday night will see the Cardinals Miles Mikolas (3-5, 5.64 ERA) go across from the Phillies Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.04 ERA).

Mikolas took the pill against Philadelphia when the teams met in St. Louis in early April and pitched well – 6.2 innings, six hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts to earn the victory. His numbers historically against Philadelphia are average, but 2023’s numbers are rough. Mikolas faced Philly twice in the regular season, going six innings, allowing five runs and taking the loss in each contest. He also took the loss in Wild Card Game 2 in 2022, giving up two runs in 4.1 innings. Alec Bohm has owned Mikolas, recording six hits in 11 at-bats, slugging 1.000 thanks to two doubles and a home run. Harper has two round-trippers and is hitting .300 against the Cardinals righty.

Nola has seen the Cardinals 12 times in his career – the most he’s started against a team not in the National League East. He went six innings and allowed just two runs against them earlier this year, earning a win in the process. The veteran right-hander allowed only two earned runs total against this team in two starts last season. Nola was also the other starter in that 2022 playoff game, going 6.2 innings, allowing no runs on just four hits, and striking out six.

The Phillies starters has held the big bats in the Cardinal lineup at-bay throughout his career. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are both hitting below the Mendoza line against Nola. One person to keep an eye on would be Brendan Donovan – he may have just one hit in five at-bats against him, but it was a home run.

Saturday

Saturday night will be on FOX and will see 2023 AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray (7-2, 2.60 ERA)on the mound for St. Louis. He will be opposed by left-hander Ranger Suárez (9-1, 1.75 ERA).

Gray has pitched well against this group of Phillies, regardless of the name on the front of his jersey. He has not given up a run in either of his starts against Philadelphia in 2023 as a member of the Twins, or earlier in 2024 – his first start of the season. He scattered five hits over five innings, allowing no runs and issuing no walks in that April start.

Alec Bohm has three hits in just eight at-bats against him, and no one else has done much damage at all. Nick Castellanos, Whit Merrifield, Harper, and Schwarber have all faced Gray 15 or more times. Castellanos has the highest average against him at .250. No one of the Phillies roster has taken Gray deep in their careers.

Suárez is second in the major leagues and first in the National League in ERA. He missed St. Louis the first time these teams faced off in 2024, and has only pitched against them once in his career – regular season and playoffs. In 2023, he went six strong innings in a September outing, holding the Cardinal offense to just one run on four hits and four walks over six innings. Current Cardinal hitters are a combined 3-for-12 with a double off the crafty lefty.

Sunday

In Sunday’s finale, the game will be broadcast on ESPN as part of Sunday Night Baseball. St. Louis will trot out Lance Lynn (2-3, 3.45 ERA) against Philadelphia’s Taijuan Walker (3-1, 5.51 ERA).

Lynn seems to be returning to form after a 2023 where he posted the worst numbers of his career. He returned to where his career began in the off-season, and his signing has paid dividends. Lynn has two starts in Citizens Bank Park, both coming over a decade ago and he was great in one, rough in another.

Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryson Stott, left, congratulates Bryce Harper for a three-run home run off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher John Curtiss during the eighth ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In 2023 as a member of the White Sox, the Phillies took care of him easily, but that year was bad for him everywhere he pitched. Earlier this year, he threw one of his three scoreless starts against Philadelphia – going five innings, scattering one hit and four walks. Lynn and the Cardinals could not hold on for the win, but he handled his business back on April 10. The Phillies veterans have not done well against him however – Castellanos, Realmuto, Harper, Merrifield, and Schwarber are a combined 15-for-85 (.177) vs. Lynn in their careers. Schwarber has taken him deep twice, Harper once.

Walker has had an odd season so far in 2024. Starting the year on the injured list, he pitched well through six innings in each of his first three starts – but the seventh inning was another story. In his last three outings, he only made it out of inning No. 5 once. Hitters are slashing .328/.403/.500 against him in those starts. Walker has allowed 10 runs on 19 hits and eight walks across 14 innings and the Phillies have gone 1-2 in those games. Arenado and Goldschmidt both have good numbers against him in their careers, as well.

Other Phillies Notes

Despite a slow start, the Cardinals are hot right now. Just 20 days ago, they sat nine games under .500. After going 12-3 over their last 15, they are now 27-27 and in second place in their division. Goldschmidt has been a lightning bolt, hitting .350 in the last week with three home runs, and .289 over the last two weeks. Nolan Gorman has hit half his long balls in his last 10 games and Donovan has a .526 OBP in the past week. Arenado is really the only hitter in their lineup that has yet to have a hot stretch. The eight-time All-Star has an OPS of just .677 so far in 2024. 

Edmundo Sosa is also picking up speed for the Phillies, continuing his torrid stretch since taking over for the injured Trea Turner.

Facing off against his former team, Sosa came over to Philadelphia in a trade back in July of 2022. The piece going back to St. Louis was left-handed reliever JoJo Romero. After a decent year in 2023, Romero has been dominant in 2024. He has a 1.30 ERA and 26 strikeouts to just four walks across 27.2 innings as the primary setup man for the Cardinals.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee