Red Hot Redbirds: Charging Cardinals drop Phils again

Posted by Kevin Durso

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay adjusts his hat after walking St. Louis Cardinals' Nick Punto in the third inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Roy Halladay reacts after allowing a hit during the Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Cardinals (Courtesy of

The Cardinals entered Citizens Bank Park winning six of their last seven. They leave with that string very much intact, at eight of their last eleven. After narrowly escaping an extra inning affair on Friday, the Cards stormed back to take last night’s game in a shutout. Tonight’s wasn’t much better, as the Phillies dropped their first four-game series of the year.

The Cardinals faced a tough task in facing Roy Halladay, but made him look very vulnerable early. A leadoff double by Rafael Furcal led to an RBI groundout by Nick Punto to put the Cards on the board. Two batters later, Lance Berkman took Halladay deep to extend the lead.

The Phillies managed a run with two outs in the second. An error by Punto set up an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz, cutting the lead in half.

The Cardinal got that run right back on an RBI single by Berkman in the third.

In the seventh, the Cards picked up another run on a two out double by Albert Pujols.

The Phillies never really capitalized on their chances and the Cardinals didn’t give much chance at a rally. In the ninth, the Phillies did manage to get the tying run to the plate. Jimmy Rollins tripled with one out to score Ruiz, cutting the lead to two, and bringing the tying run up. Shane Victorino grounded out, scoring Rollins, to cut the lead to one. Chase Utley followed by singling through the hole on the right side. Hunter Pence was up next and grounded out to third to end it, and the Phillies went on to lose the series finale, 4-3.

Two straight games, and the entire series, were highlighted by mediocre play. Really, that is no concern anymore…unless the Atlanta Braves win. The Cardinals are alive and well in the wildcard race, and with the Phillies safely in the Postseason, they only have to worry about their opponent. Should the Cardinals stun baseball with their rally back, they would face the Phillies.

The Phillies know, from their first NL East title in 2007, what a red hot team can do to World Series hopes. This is the last team you want to see in the Postseason. They might not make it at all, but they are trying hard to overcome a struggle in the first half. The team has had the Phillies’ number all season, and the confidence just can’t be high if the Phillies have to deal with the Cards. The chances of that happening are still slim, but don’t rule it out.

The Phillies rough go in this series may actually be a good sign. It may be better to get this out of their system now, rather than later, obviously. But the type of play from the regulars isn’t encouraging. It took Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley until the ninth to get their first hits of the game. Shane Victorino finished with one hit as well. Hunter Pence, Ross Gload, and Carlos Ruiz all had multi-hit games, each netting two hits. Pence and Ruiz looked in Postseason form already. The top of the order still has some work to do.

There is nothing more to play for other than 100 wins, a franchise-record 102 wins, and home field. All three could come to the Phillies soon. But it wasn’t tonight or this weekend. On to the next series for the Phillies, whose only focus right now is October.

The Phillies open a four-game series with the Washington Nationals, starting tomorrow with a day/night doubleheader.

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