All right, let’s try this whole series preview thing. It’s not going to be terribly in depth or anything, just some general information and thoughts about the upcoming games. I may reach out to bloggers on other teams to get a feel for their team at the moment, kinda like a Playing Pepper but on a smaller scale. I’d hope to have fairly standard headers but let’s take it one step at a time.
(I wrote this Wednesday night. Thursday brought some changes, so we’re modifying.)
The Last Time We Met….
I always want to answer a phrase like that with “was at La Belle Aurore” because that was the answer Humphrey Bogart gave Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and I love that movie.
However, the last time the Cardinals visited Philadelphia was May 28-30, 2019. The Cardinals wore gray, the Phillies might have worn (powder) blue. The Cardinals lost the first two games 4-3 (Cards scored three in the first and nothing more, a familiar scenario) and 11-4 (Genesis Cabrera’s debut, with Michael Wacha allowing six runs in one inning of relief) before taking the final game 5-3 behind Dakota Hudson’s six innings of one-run ball and Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter going deep.
Interestingly (or not) enough, seven hitters that appeared for the Cardinals in that game are no longer with the club—Kolten Wong, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler, Matt Wieters, Gyorko, and Yairo Munoz. An eighth, Harrison Bader, won’t be available on this visit. However, all five pitchers that were used in the game are still with St. Louis.
The Mound Men
Friday: Carlos Martinez vs. Matt Moore
Saturday: Kwang Hyun Kim vs. TBD
Sunday: John Gant vs. Aaron Nola
Looking at pitchers against individual batters is sometimes interesting but not often informative. Also, Baseball-Reference has put those things in their new Stathead service and, while I am sure it is worth the money for most, I’ve not pulled the trigger on that.
So I’d like to look at what these pitchers have done in Citizens Bank Park, though that is going to make things a bit Phillies-centric. After all, Kim has never faced the Phillies, either in Philadelphia or in St. Louis, and Gant has two appearances totaling 27 plate appearances, but 23 of those came in 2016 with the Braves. In his Cardinals career, he’s allowed one hit and struck out one in a very different role than he’ll have this weekend.
That leaves us with Carlos Martinez. Martinez actually relieved Hudson in that previously mentioned win, giving up two runs in one inning of work. His last start in CBP was actually June 22, 2017, losing 5-1 as he allowed a run in the first (unsurprising) and two runs in the sixth. Kevin Siegrist, as long as we are talking about names from the past, gave up the other two.
Which means that Cardinal starters don’t have a lot of experience with the Phillies’ home park, which is what the quirks of an unbalanced schedule against a non-divisional rival will do for you. Let’s quickly look at the other side. Matt Moore is in his first year with the Phils and has a 6.00 ERA in four career starts in the park. Moore, who didn’t pitch last year, isn’t lighting it up this season either with a 7.56 ERA after the Braves got him for five in five last time out.
TBD is a bit of a mystery as a pitcher, so we’ll go to Aaron Nola. Obviously, Nola is at the other end of the spectrum from Moore, given he’s been with the team since his major league debut in 2015. He’s 33-17 in his home stadium with an ERA just under 3.00. Nola hasn’t notched one of those oh-so-valuable pitching wins in 2021 yet, but he’s put up a 2.63 FIP and a 116 ERA+. Last time out, he allowed three runs to the Mets in five innings, but he struck out seven.
(EDIT 1: Of course, some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains. Today was one of those days in New York, so today’s starter, Zach Eflin, goes tomorrow with Moore bumping TBD from the schedule. Eflin has seen the Cards once in his career, a 2018 start where he gave up four runs, two earned, in just under five innings. He has a 3.99 ERA in 43 games (41 starts) at Citizens Bank Park.)
The Hot Seat
With Paul DeJong getting a hit on Tuesday and getting Wednesday off, passions around him cooled a little bit. That ire has to go somewhere and Lane Thomas took it on with three misplays in the outfield (only one of which was ruled an error) and going 0-4 at the plate. Until Tyler O’Neill comes back, though, it seems Thomas will be with the team as there are no other outfielders on the 40-man roster. (There is another option, mentioned below.)
Before Thursday’s game against the Mets, which is when I’m writing this, the Phillies are 6-6 and have a three game losing streak going. (They face Jacob deGrom Thursday, which given deGrom’s history of hard luck, might be the best thing they have going for them.) (EDIT 2: Rain was the second-best.) They are 13th in the National League in OPS at .658, three spots and almost 35 points worse than the Cardinals. They are 11th in home runs—did you know the Cardinals are FOURTH in home runs in the National League? That doesn’t feel right, does it?
They are seventh (4.09) and a run better than the last-place Cardinals in ERA. They are tied for eighth in strikeouts (Cards are 12th but just four K behind). Their bullpen ERA, which was such the weak spot last year, now sits at 4.34, which is right behind St. Louis.
In other words, if the Cardinals are able to score runs, they should be able to keep the Phillies from doing the same. Citizens Bank isn’t necessarily known for pitching duels, this game excepted, so hopefully that bodes well for St. Louis.
Edit 3: Dispatches From the Front
I reached out to Ethan Witte, who you can find writing at The Good Phight, to see if there was anything that Phillies fans were talking about that wasn’t obvious to us. Here’s his report.
“Here's what you should know:
1) the hitting is bad right now. No one can hit and they are striking out A TON.
2) the bullpen is actually pretty good. Of course, compared to last year, a pack of monkeys could do a better job.
3) CF is a mess. Adam Haseley left the team for personal reasons, meaning Mickey Moniak will get a long look at the job, something he deserved out of spring training.
Other than that, the numbers should speak for themselves. It'll be nice to play someone other than the Braves or Mets for once.”
The Cardinals will have to make a move to activate Kim. If someone pitches a ton of innings out of the bullpen on Friday, that will make the choice easier for the Cardinals. Otherwise, is it Kodi Whitley in a last in, first out situation? Or do they send out Thomas anyway, figuring between Dylan Carlson, Justin Williams, Austin Dean, and Tommy Edman they can cover the outfield?
(EDIT 4: As you know, Thomas went out to Sauget as Scott Hurst got added to the 40-man roster and promoted to play center occasionally. I doubt we see him much, but it’s always fun to see a debut. I can’t see them doing all this to send him back tomorrow when Kim is activated, so unless there’s another injury situation with someone like Daniel Ponce de Leon, it would seem Whitley might get the short straw.)
I understand Matt Carpenter is hitting the ball hard and I understand that he probably should be playing. I just wish there was a way to do it and keep Edman out of the outfield. He’s serviceable out there, but I think he’s better on the dirt as they say.
Four of the six Phillies that have had enough plate appearances in the last week to qualify are hitting .238 or worse. That includes Bryce Harper, who has two home runs but is hitting .200 over that stretch.