Posted May 24, 2012 on AP on Fox
The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in last season's NL division series before going on to win their 11th World Series. While the NL Central-leading Cardinals have more or less picked up where they left off, the last-place Phillies have struggled without Missouri native Ryan Howard, out since tearing his Achilles in October. The Cardinals try for a 13th win in 19 meetings with the Phillies as the teams open a four-game set Thursday night at Busch Stadium. St. Louis was a heavy underdog when it faced Philadelphia in the division series, but the NL's wild-card winner rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the series and kick off an impressive October run. Despite losing Albert Pujols in free agency and suffering a slew of injures - including Lance Berkman's torn meniscus - the Cardinals (25-19) are still one of baseball's best teams. They lead the NL with 231 runs, 56 homers and a .278 average. "Lance, we don't know what's going to happen with him, and some other guys are battling injuries,'' right fielder Carlos Beltran said. "But we as a team have to fight with what we have and right now we're doing a pretty good job.'' On the verge of a season-best fifth consecutive victory on its own field, St. Louis is coming off a three-game home sweep of San Diego. The Cardinals outscored the Padres 14-6, rallying to take Wednesday's finale 6-3 after falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first. Lance Lynn earned his seventh win and Beltran hit his NL-best 14th homer. David Freese also went deep, going 2 for 4 to snap a 3-for-34 slump. The five-time reigning East champions have, in contrast, had a rough go offensively without second baseman Chase Utley and Howard, who was injured while making the Phillies' final out in 2011. Aside from hitting an impressive .264, Philadelphia (22-23) ranks in the middle of the pack in almost every offensive category. Howard will especially be missed in this series. The slugging first baseman is a .360 lifetime hitter against his hometown team - his highest mark against any NL opponent. The Phillies, who entered Wednesday batting just .132 with runners in scoring position during a season-worst four-game skid, regrouped with a 4-1 victory over Washington. Cole Hamels threw eight scoreless innings and Shane Victorino went 2 for 3 with a homer and a pair of RBIs. "Tonight's win was big for us," manager Charlie Manuel. "We're going to win some more. We ain't going nowhere." Philadelphia now turns to Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74 ERA), who after going 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA over a four-start stretch, was roughed up in Saturday's 7-5 loss to Boston. The right-hander gave up seven runs and a career-worst four homers - two more than he surrendered in his previous nine starts - over 4 1-3 innings. "I threw a lot of pitches down the middle, not good results when you do that," Blanton said. "They have a lot of good hitters and when you make mistakes, a lot of times a lineup like that will make you pay." Since going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA over his first three starts against St. Louis, Blanton has compiled a 4.61 mark while losing his last two - both of which came in 2010. Blanton will be opposed by Jake Westbrook (4-3, 2.41). He allowed four runs - two earned - and six hits over 6 1-3 innings Saturday in a 6-0 road loss to the Dodgers, failing to overcome a couple of errors behind him. "It definitely makes it tougher, but it's our job as pitchers to pick up our defense," Westbrook told the team's official website. "Physical errors happen. That's part of the game. It's up to us to make pitches after that and get out of jams." Westbrook went 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts against the Phillies last season. He lasted just 3 1-3 innings in a 9-2 road loss Sept. 17, allowing two runs, five hits and five walks.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Philadelphia Phillies storyline: Chase’s on 1st?

Philadelphia Phillies storyline: Chase’s on 1st? isportswebChase Utley will travel with the Philadelphia Phillies on the road trip before he competes at first-stop Clearwater.  What happens at 2nd base when he returns?  How often will Chase be stationed at 1st? Where does Freddy Galvis fit in? TAL'S HANDY CAPS CAP-SIZE HINDSIGHT Penthouse Occupancy for the 5-2 outcome...
WAIT...WHAT?

Halladay's bobblehead screwy

A Roy Halladay bobblehead (at one point) available for sale at MLB.com had the Phillies hurler pitching left-handed, not right-handed, and his pitching form is all messed up.

LOB: The 2012 Philadelphia Phillies

How bad has it been for the Phillies in run-scoring situations?Pence is struggling with RISP.Only Ike Davis has more at-bats with runners in scoring position than Hunter Pence in the National League. Pence is getting his opportunities and doing nothing with them. Among batters with at least 25 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Pence’s .714 OPS ranks 63rd in...

Phils' "Prospect" Anthony Hewitt a Work in Progress

When the Phillies drafted high-school standout Anthony Hewitt with the #24 overall pick in the 2008 draft, most scouts seemed to agree that Hewitt was a "high risk, high reward" choice. Unfortunately for the Phillies, it seems very unlikely that Anthony Hewitt will play in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park anytime soon. Hewitt warms up prior to a game on May...

Halladay Admits Phillies Feeling Pressure

Doc says guys are pressing (AP)Roy Halladay owned up Tuesday night and admitted that a lot of the guys in the Phillies clubhouse are putting added pressure on themselves. As you can tell, it’s not working.Halladay had one of his best post-game press conferences since joining the Phillies. Here are some audio excerpts. If you have time, take a listen:Halladay May 22 – On Chooch...

Ex-Phillies Farmhands Getting a Chance

The Phillies stink.  It's like watching the mid to late 90's teams, except with a bloated payroll. So, in other news...Ex-Phillies "prospects" Mike Costanzo, Qunitin Berry, and Rich Thompson are getting their shot in the show.Mike Costanzo was a 2nd round pick for Philadelphia in 2005.  He was going to be the future at 3rd base.  Yeah, not quite.  He's...

Bryce Harper aces the Roy Halladay test

Alright, so we realize it’s been an all-out Harper fest in these parts lately. He’s collected multiple hits in 4 out of 5 ballgames and last night he went up against Roy Halladay (a man some 15 years his senior) for the first time. Flash back to this spring training quote: The other day, Eckstein and Harper had a conversation about how different major league pitchers would attack...

Time for the Bobblehead Era to End in MLB. Sorry, Roy Halladay

First and foremost, bobbleheads are stupid. I don't care enough to look back into the history of bobbleheads or the history of bobbleheads used as giveaways or sold by Major League Baseball clubs, but it is now officially time for the the bobblehead era to end in baseball.The reason? MLB.com created a bobblehead of the best pitcher in the game over the last ten years... And...

Series Preview - Cardinals

Phillies (22-23) v. St. Louis Cardinals (25-19)Pitching Matchups:Thursday, 7:05 - Joe Blanton v. Jake WestbrookFriday, 7:05 - Cliff Lee v. Kyle LohseSaturday, 7:15 - Oh great, it's KK v. Jaime GarciaSunday, 1:35 - Roy Halladay v. Adam WainwrightWhat the heck happened to Kyle Lohse? For 10 years he was a sub-.500 pitcher with a career 4.79 ERA. The last year he dropped his ERA...

Hamels avoids Harper controversy, mows down Nats

While the rest of the baseball world waited with baited breath on Wednesday night to see the rematch of Cole Hamels vs. Bryce Harper, the Phillies left-handed starter seemed disinterested in fanning the flames of hype beforehand. "I had nine guys that I had to face, so it wasn't in my mind," Hamels said. Hamels went out and pitched on Wednesday night like he didn...

Roy Halladay Bobblehead Was Designed For The Trash

What kind of hammerhead shark designed this bobble head?  The doll has Doc Halladay in his wind-up, ready to throw with the glove on his pitching hand!  This either had to be designed somewhere in Pakistan, or by my 80 year old grandmother.

Cards come up short in opener vs. Phillies

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Shane Victorino and Freddy Galvis each drove in three runs, including Galvis' go-ahead single in the sixth inning, and the Philadelphia Philles beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-9 on Thursday night. Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz and Ty Wigginton added three hits apiece for Philadelphia, which had a season-high 18. Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 13th...

Philles avoid sweep thanks to Hamels and defense

Cole Hamels pitched eight innings of shutout baseball to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals. It would not have possible if not for the defense. In the top of the sixth, Espinosa was thrown out trying to advance on a Ryan Zimmerman single. Hunter Pence fielded the ball, then delivered a one-hop strike to Carlos Ruiz, who blocked the plate. In...

Phillies Drop Fourth Straight to Nationals, 5-2

Just another one of those games in which you'd rather throw your tv out of the window than have to watch Roy Halladay suffer another loss. Charlie Manuel posted his 80,000th lineup of the season... It wasn't one we'll be seeing in more games down the stretch.  Hector Luna, tonight's first baseman, hit a ground rule double in the bottom of the second, scoring Hunter...

Gameday: Phillies (21-23) vs Nationals (26-17)

Washington Nationals (26-17) at Philadelphia Phillies (21-23)Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.31) vs. Cole Hamels (6-1, 2.48)Time: 7:05, Citizens Bank Park TV: CSN Weather: Cloudy, 74, chance of t-storms Media: Twitter and FacebookThe Phillies, who are already on a season high four game losing streak, hope to avoid a sweep at the hands of their new rivals the Nationals. The Phils nearly...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.