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Series Preview 6/18-20: Cardinals at Phillies

‘The City of Brotherly Love’, so they say

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals loaded up and traveled to Philadelphia to begin a three-game series with the Phillies on Monday evening. After dropping two of three to the Cubs - though St. Louis finished with a win, so it kind of ended on a positive note - the Cardinals enter the series with a 37-32 record. After taking two of three in Milwaukee from the Brewers, the Phillies, too, are 37-32.

Entering Monday, the Brewers lead the National League Central division by a half-game over the Cubs. The Cardinals are four back of the Brewers. In the East, it’s the 42-29 Braves leading the way. The Nationals, at 37-31, are 3.5 back, while the Phillies sit just a half-game under Washington.

Barring postseason play, this will be the final meeting between the Cardinals and Phillies in 2018.

In Monday’s series opener, Nick Pivetta will take the mound against Miles Mikolas at 6:05 PM Central time. Pivetta has started 14 games for the Phillies this season and maintained a 3.10 FIP across 72 innings of work. Pivetta’s is second in the club’s starting rotation with a 10.13 K/9 rate, trailing Tuesday’s starter. In his most recent seven starts, Pivetta has a 3.79 ERA with 46 punchouts. Jedd Gyorko is 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, and four runs batted in facing Pivetta.

Mikolas has logged nine quality starts out of 13 total this season. With a 2.43 ERA over 85 13 frames, Mikolas ranks fifth in the National League in ERA and tied for eighth for the most innings pitched. His nine walks are the fewest in the game among qualified starting pitchers, and it will be interesting to see if this trend holds up in this start; the Phillies have drawn the second-most walks in the Majors, 268, trailing the Cubs at 269.

Vince Velasquez and Luke Weaver will toe the rubber in Tuesday’s 6:05 PM Central time start. Velasquez has a 28.3 strikeout percentage in 74 frames over 14 starts. Batters are hitting .243 off Velasquez, who has a 3.54 xFIP for the 2018 season. Velasquez’s former NL East opponent Marcell Ozuna is 3-for-15 with a home run and two walks against the right-hander in his career.

Weaver has struggled in June thus far; in three starts, Weaver has logged a total of 15 13 innings with nine earned runs (a 5.28 ERA) on 20 hits and six walks. Weaver will look to get back on track against a Phillies squad he has had success against. In two outings against Philadelphia, the Phillies are collectively batting .257 (9-for-35) with only one walk.

In Wednesday’s series finale, Jake Arrieta and Michael Wacha will get the nods in a start around 12:05 PM Central time. The former Chicago hurler faced the Cardinals earlier this season, his first with the Phillies, and was a little roughed up; Arrieta lasted only three innings in his 5/18 outing in St. Louis, where he allowed four runs. For the season on the whole, Arrieta has given the Phillies the quality pitching they needed, with seven quality starts out of 13 total. The battle between Arrieta and his former college teammate Matt Carpenter will continue; Carpenter is 3-for-35 with two home runs and 10 strikeouts against Arrieta.

Wacha had the worst start of his career in his last outing, a four-inning start against the Cubs. Chicago put up eight earned runs against the right-hander who entered the game with a 2.47 ERA that’s now well over a half-run higher at 3.24. Over his last six starts, excluding the outing against the Cubs, Wacha is 4-0 with only seven earned runs surrendered in 39 innings pitched.