Phillies (21-37) at Cardinals (26-32)
8:15 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
After going cold offensively in the final two games of their split with the Braves, the Phillies take on a team and a starting pitcher who are really scuffling.
1. Skidding Cards
The Cardinals have lost seven in a row, losing every game of their road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati.
They were six games over .500 on May 14 after winning eight of nine, but they’ve gone 5-17 since. Lately, they just haven’t been able to hit, averaging 2.7 runs over their last nine games.
St. Louis has hit .221 with a .289 on-base percentage in June.
The Cards have had a lot of offense over the years and are now relying heavily on Matt Carpenter, who went from underrated stud to de facto centerpiece. He’s hit .157 over his last 100 plate appearances and is hitting just .216/.345/.426 on the year.
He’s still the toughest player to pitch to in St. Louis’ lineup because of his top-five plate selection and power that emerged in 2015.
But there are holes in the Cardinals’ lineup, no doubt about it. They have only three regulars batting better than .262: Jedd Gyorko, Tommy Pham and Kolten Wong.
2. Jump on Wacha
The Cardinals’ pitching hasn’t been much better than the offense, with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha both having rocky starts to the season.
Wacha enters tonight 2-3 with a 4.67 ERA in 10 starts. His ERA was 2.74 as recently as May 24. But over his last three starts, he’s allowed 16 runs and 27 baserunners in 11⅓ innings.
Wacha still has a big fastball but he hasn’t been locating it lately. The Cardinals were really hoping for a bounce-back season from their 25-year-old right-hander after his ERA increased from 3.38 in 2015 to 5.09 last season.
Wacha has faced the Phillies three times and gone 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA. Current Phils have gone 14 for 41 (.341) against him with four doubles and a homer.
Howie Kendrick is 4 for 8 with a longball off Wacha. Maikel Franco is 3 for 7 with two doubles.
3. Hellickson’s turn
Jeremy Hellickson looked like he was getting back on track May 19 in Pittsburgh, when he allowed just two hits and one earned run in six innings with a boatload of quick outs. He left that game in the sixth inning after tweaking his back during an at-bat. In three starts since, he’s allowed 16 runs in 16⅓ innings.
Hellickson, who had a 1.80 ERA at the beginning of May, is now 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts. His 1.20 WHIP is very low for a pitcher with an ERA that high, which usually tells you the longball has plagued him. That’s been the case for Helly, who’s allowed 11 home runs in his last seven starts.
He’s also been walking more batters than usual — 10 in his last three starts. He’s obviously extremely reliant on his changeup and when it’s not located low enough in the zone, he pays the price. High changeups make hitters’ eyes light up.
4. Hittable bullpen
The Cardinals’ bullpen has a 4.84 ERA, fourth-highest in the majors. Setup man Trevor Rosenthal (2.91 ERA, 15.0 K/9) and closer Seung-Hwan Oh (2.67 ERA, 13 saves) have done their jobs but the others haven’t.
St. Louis paid left-hander Brett Cecil $30.5 million over four years this past offseason and he hasn’t yet lived up to the price tag, posting a 5.66 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 29 appearances.
The Cardinals’ other oft-used lefty, Kevin Siegrist, has a 4.57 ERA.
So between the cold offense, bad bullpen and mediocre starting pitching, this is not the Cardinals team baseball fans are used to seeing. It’s a winnable series for the Phils.
5. This and that
• Odubel Herrera extended his major-league lead with his 22nd double last night. In the month of June he has 10 doubles and nobody else in the majors has more than five.
• The Phillies have played six more games on the road than at home, and their 9-23 road record is worst in the majors.
• The Phils also have the worst record in the majors but at least they don’t have the worst run differential. They’re minus-70. The Padres are minus-117.