Great timing, Phillies. Just as the St. Louis Cardinals come to town, they acquire OF Matt Holliday and $1.5 million from the Oakland Athletics for 3B Brett Wallace, OF Shane Peterson, and RHP Clayton Mortensen. Holliday could actually be in the lineup tonight as the Athletics were in New York to play the Yankees. Great.
The Cardinals’ offense, which was around the National League average of 4.42 runs per game, will get a huge boost from Holliday who has a career .926 OPS and the ability to swipe bags at a high rate of success (78-for-98, 79% career). A 3-4 of Albert Pujols and Holliday is going to create headaches for opposing pitchers, similar to the Yankees’ 3-4 of Mark Texeira and A-Rod.
Add a now above-average offense to their pitching staff and you have a distinct favorite in the NL Central. Heading into tonight’s games, the Cardinals had three starting pitchers with an ERA+ of 135 or better. Ryan Franklin has been one of the best closers in baseball despite his Osama beard. Both the Cardinals’ rotation and bullpen have ERA’s under 4.00 so the Phillies are going to be facing quality pitching throughout the game, including the Cards’ two LOOGY relievers Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller.
The Phillies, meanwhile, remain in hot pursuit of Roy Halladay as they pull further and further ahead of the NL East thanks to 15-2 run in their last 17 games. Despite the success, the Phillies could definitely use an upgrade in the starting rotation, which has a season ERA of 4.74. Aside from phenom J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton has the highest ERA+ among the starters at 101, and 100 is average.
The good news is that the Phillies will be facing Todd Wellemeyer, who started this game last season. What’s a guy gotta do to get a repeat performance?
Let’s find out.
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After this series, the Phillies head out on a road trip to Arizona and San Francisco. Last year, the Phillies went 20-12 (.625) against the NL West including 7-9 on the road.