Last week, during my preview of the San Francisco series, I mentioned there were only two teams that were a legitimate threat in the National League, the Cardinals are the other. With a potent offense featuring the best player in baseball, one of the premier outfielders in the game, one of the best defensive catchers, and a dominant 1-2 punch in their starting rotation; I think this series will be a preview of the National League Championship Series. Last year, the Phillies won the season series 4-1; sweeping on the road and winning two at home.
GAME ONE: Jaime Garcia (2-1, 1.04) at Joe Blanton (0-0-, 0.00)
The Phillies haven’t seen much of Garcia since his debut in 2008, collectively they have just 6 plate appearances against him. While Garcia has already battled Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana, he has yet to face a lineup at powerful as the Phillies in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. In his last start, he shut of the Braves over seven innings of work, but tonight he will be facing a powerful lineup that recently rediscovered its swing. On the other hand, it’s a big night for Joe Blanton, who will be making his 2010 debut after recovering from an oblique strain. I would expect Joe to pick up where he left off last year; ready to eat innings, get outs, and keep the Phils in the game.
GAME TWO: Adam Wainwright (4-1, 2.13) at Cole Hamels (2-2, 5.28)
Game two of the series looks to have the best pitching matchup of the series. The Cardinals co-ace is coming off his worst start of the season, but overall he is continuing his 2009 success. Over two career appearances at the Bank, Wainwright has gone eight shutout innings (one start). In 86 plate appearances, the Phillies are batting .237 with just 18 hits. Cole Hamels is coming off another so-so start; a start that had the bright spots of a season high 10 strike outs and Hamels pitching out of some jams; however, he still gave up four runs, lasted just six innings with four walks and nine hits. The Cardinals are only batting .230 against the lefty, scattering 14 hits and two walks in 65 plate appearances. He also has yet to face new Card, Matt Holliday. I anticipate a low scoring, old fashioned pitchers duel.
GAME THREE: Brad Penny (3-1, 1.56) at Kyle Kendrick (0-1, 7.61)
In a battle between a washed up righty veteran and a struggling young righty, this game gets my vote for most interesting matchup. Penny has been quite effective in his first few starts as a Cardinal, struggling only in his most recent outing, but still putting together a quality start. Penny is one of the few pitchers to have great success at the Bank with 2-0 record in three starts, with 1.71 ERA one just one home run allowed over 21 innings. The Phillies are batting just .256 with 46 hits in 180 at bats. For our guys, Kyle Kendrick will make his sixth start of the season, and I’m not sure he deserves the chance to. (Wasn’t there anyone in AA or AAA ball they could have tried behind this lineup – like the Phillies did with Kendrick in 2007?) Kendrick has a minimal record against St. Louis; facing them for only 61 plate appearances with a .216 average. Hopefully Kendrick can pull it together for a quality start, and prove he is deserving not only of a next start, but a spot on the 25-man roster when J.A. Happ returns from the DL.
GAME FOUR: Kyle Loshe (0-1, 5.28) at Roy Halladay (5-1, 1.47)
After struggling and being injured for most of 2009, former Phillie Kyle Loshe is coming off of his most successful start in over a year; going seven innings and allowing only one run to the Reds on May 1st. The Phillies are batting .255 against their former teammate with 38 hits in 149 at bats. While that average isn’t great, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez have Loshe’s number; with Howard batting .364 and three walks and Ibanez with three home runs, nine RBIs and four walks in 33 plate appearances. And Roy? What is there left to say that hasn’t been said? He is coming off his second complete game shutout of the season. In the seventh start, look for him to be just as dominant. And luckily, the Cardinals have only faced Doc in 16 plate appearances with a mere two hits, no walks, and one K.
On a final note, enjoy the series as it should be a good one. And if your down at the Bank, be sure to let Mark McGuire hear it.
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