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Series Preview 5/17-20: Phillies vs. Cardinals

The Fightin’ Phils are in town for a four-game series

Chicago White Sox v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After a six-game, two-city roadtrip against the Padres and Twins, the Cardinals are back in St. Louis to start a seven-game home stand. First up, a four-game series with the Phillies that will begin on Thursday evening. The Cardinals enter the series 23-17, coming off losses in three of four, and the Phillies are 24-16 after winning six of their last seven.

In the series opener at 6:15 PM Central time, Luke Weaver will go against Vince Velasquez. After allowing four or more runs in four consecutive outings, Weaver righted his ship his last time out, logging five scoreless innings against the Padres. In eight starts this year, Weaver has maintained a 3.27 FIP with a 0.45 HR/9 rate. Weaver will have to work to keep the Phillies in the yard, as Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana each have seven long balls this year, while Odubel Herrera has six and Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins each have five.

Velasquez was dominant in his last start, whiffing 12 Giants across six quality innings. Batters are hitting .255 with 14 walks against Velasquez in 41 innings this year, but the 25-year-old has been able to keep up with a 3.84 xFIP and a 10.98 K/9. Pitching for the Phillies since 2016, Velasquez has grown familiar with his NL East opponents. Former Marlins-turned-Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna is 3-for-12 with a homer in his career facing Velasquez.

Friday’s game will start at 7:15 and feature a matchup of Michael Wacha and familiar foe Jake Arrieta. In 43 23 frames for St. Louis, Wacha has a 3.09 ERA with a .236 BAA. Dating back to April 20, Wacha has allowed more than one earned run in a start once and has logged six-plus innings in three of the five starts in the span. Franco and Herrera each have a pair of doubles in their careers facing Wacha.

Arrieta joined the Phillies late in the offseason and hasn’t missed a beat. Governing a young pitching staff, Arrieta has a 1.06 WHIP in seven starts for Philadelphia this year. Arrieta’s strikeout rate has dropped to 5.83 K/9 thus far, coming off 8.71 last year in 30 starts for the Cubs. Arrieta has been getting a lot more groundballs this year, with one occurring 57.9 percent of the time - as compared to his 45.1 percent-rate in 2017. Perhaps Matt Carpenter can reverse two un-Carpenter-like trends on Friday; those would be his career stats facing Arrieta and his season numbers overall. In 33 at-bats facing his former college teammate, Carpenter has two hits - both homers.

In Saturday’s contest, Zach Eflin will toe the rubber for the Phillies. Eflin has made two starts for the Phillies this year after starting the season in Triple-A. In those starts - six innings in Miami and 6 23 against the Giants - Eflin has allowed one earned run with 13 strikeouts and three walks. The Cardinals have not publicly announced who will start on Saturday. This spot was used by Adam Wainwright on May 13; he has since went back on the disabled list. This game is set to begin at 2:15 PM.

Sunday’ series finale will feature a matchup of young, exciting right-handers in Jack Flaherty and Aaron Nola. Flaherty went a career-high 5 23 frames on May 15 against the Twins in an outing where he allowed just one run. Flaherty is pitching in the spot once occupied by Carlos Martinez, who hit the disabled list with a right lat strain. Martinez is having an MRI on Thursday.

Although Arrieta was brought in to Philly to ‘man the rotation’, if you will, it has been the 24-year-old Nola who has led the way. Nola is tied with Corey Kluber of the Indians and Luis Severino of New York Yankees with six wins, second to Max Scherzer’s seven win the Nationals. Nola has logged 58 23 innings in nine starts, seven of them quality. Nola’s 1.99 ERA is fourth in the National League behind Martinez (1.62), Scherzer (1.69), and Jacob deGrom’s 1.83 for the Mets. Dexter Fowler has two homers in six plate appearances facing Nola.