For first time since October ousting, Phillies face Cardinals

Carlos Ruiz and the Phillies face the Cardinals for the first time since the 2011 NLDS. The Phillies also clinched the NL East last September against the Cardinals. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
We probably don't really want to remember the last time the Phillies and Cardinals shared the same field. It didn't end well.

But 2012 is a new season, and with that comes the first meeting between the two 2011 NLDS foes.

Both teams are in the midst of struggles. Both teams are battling injuries. But the Phillies are still a last-place team. The Cardinals are leading the NL Central.

Out of the Cardinals lineup are Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Game 5 hero Chris Carpenter.

The Cardinals are certainly a different team than they were last season. Those injuries are one reason. Also gone are Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa, the slugger and manager behind the defending World Champs. Instead, Mike Matheny is in his first season as Cardinals manager, and the Cardinals have a new look.

The Phillies dodge a few bullets with the powerful Berkman out as well as strong offensive producers like Craig and Pujols' replacement Matt Carpenter, who is also on the DL. But leading the way is an old division foe. Carlos Beltran leads the team in home runs with 13 and RBIs with 35. Right behind him is Matt Holliday, who has nine home runs and 30 RBIs. Also watch out for 2011 World Series MVP David Freese, who has quietly put together a strong season with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. Rafael Furcal and Yadier Molina also have 20-plus RBIs as well.

This is a team that will score runs and get on base. Furcal has a .343 averaged, tied for second on the team with the injured Jon Jay and behind on the injured Craig.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series.

In the opener, Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74 ERA) goes against Jake Westbrook (4-3, 2.41 ERA) – Blanton has been solid this season, but hit his first bump in the road in his last start. He allowed seven runs in five innings to the Red Sox, including four home runs, in the loss that snapped the Phillies winning streak. In his career against the Cardinals (six games, five starts), Blanton is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA.

Westbrook allowed four runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings in taking the loss to the Dodgers in his last start. He has allowed four runs in three of his last four starts. In his career against the Phillies (three starts), Westbrook is 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA.

In the second game, Cliff Lee (0-2, 2.66 ERA) faces Kyle Lohse (5-1, 2.91 ERA) – Lee is still in search of his first win of the season after losing to the Red Sox, allowing five runs in seven innings in his last start. It is the longest in his career Lee has gone without a win to start a season. In his career against the Cardinals (four starts), Lee is 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA.

Lohse comes into this start working on a strong season. After winning four of his first five starts, Lohse took his first loss in his first May start. Since then, he has one more win, and followed that up with a pair of no-decisions, including a start where he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Dodgers. In his career against the Phillies (10 starts), Lohse is 3-4 with a 3.43 ERA.

In the third game, Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 5.23 ERA) takes the mound against Jaime Garcia (3-2, 3.55 ERA) – Kendrick suffered another tough luck loss in his last start on Monday against the Nationals. He lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs. In his career against the Cardinals (seven games, five starts), Kendrick is 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA.

Garcia has not been the pitcher of record very often, like he was in his last start, taking a no-decision after allowing two runs over seven innings. Garcia's two worst starts of the season came to open the month of May. In his career against the Phillies (six games, four starts), Garcia is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA.

In the finale, Roy Halladay (4-4, 3.58 ERA) gets the start against Adam Wainwright (3-5, 4.78 ERA) – Halladay suffered the loss in his last start, as he struggled against the Nationals allowing five runs in six innings. Since opening the season with three straight wins, Halladay has only one win. In his career against the Cardinals (four starts), Halladay is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA.

Wainwright is returning from an entire season off in 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery. After a slow start, Wainwright seems to be finding his groove, winning three of his five starts in May. But Wainwright recently lost two straight games before pitching a complete-game shutout in his last start against the Padres. In his career against the Phillies (eight games, six starts), Wainwright is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA.

May 24 – Phillies 3, Cardinals 4
May 25 – Phillies 4, Cardinals 2
May 26 – Phillies 2, Cardinals 5
May 27 – Phillies 3, Cardinals 1

Every pitcher for the Phillies in this series is coming off a loss of some form, whether charged to them or not. For most of them, they have something to prove in this start.

The Cardinals have a good rotation, one that could probably beat the Phillies handily in this series, if we were to base things purely on track record from this season alone.

But I've picked the Phillies to split the series for two reasons. Their names are Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. I just can't see Lee going much longer without taking matters into his own hands to pick up a win. Same with Halladay, who has gotten more help in getting wins this season, but not recently. 

I wouldn't be shocked if other things happened in this series based on the pitching. I have Lee beating Lohse, which could easily go the other way based on Lohse's season. There's also no reason to say that with a few runs, Kendrick couldn't beat Garcia. I mean, after all, Garcia lost Game 3 of the NLDS on one bad pitch.

Same goes for Halladay and Wainwright. Wainwright may be finding a groove especially after pitching his first shutout in over a year, albeit against the floundering Padres. With Halladay and Lee's current state, anything is possible for opposing offenses. But since the Cardinals have such a banged-up offense, this might be a great chance for Halladay and Lee to dominate a lineup in a similar fashion to what Cole Hamels has done this season. One good start could get them going.

The Phillies remain on the road after this series to face the New York Mets for three games before returning home to face the Marlins and Dodgers on the team's next homestand.

Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.

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